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One year on – how Mikayla’s life has changed

Wednesday – 20 December 2017

Those familiar with the NDIS in South Australia will recognise Mikayla. She is the smiling young woman who appears in advertisements for the rollout of the NDIS. Mikayla has autism and has been receiving support through the NDIS. We caught up with Mikayla’s mother recently to see how the NDIS has changed her life.

Mikayla’s life before the NDIS

Before the NDIS, Mikayla's immediate family were her only supports. She had excellent support through the learning centre at her school, but outside of school she was at risk of social isolation and had problems managing her sensory and emotional overloads.

On joining the NDIS, Mikayla set two major goals:

  • To have support to access her community and build more social networks
  • To develop more independence.

Choosing the right person to meet her goals

Mikayla and her family engaged a support worker, Katy, to help Mikayla reach her goals. They attribute Mikayla’s incredible progress to Katy, who has been amazing.

Mikayla really wanted to go on her school's annual ski trip for senior students, but she didn't have the independence and skills to be able to manage it. However, by working closely with Katy at home in her own environment, she was able to gain the skills needed to attend. Katy spent time showing Mikayla pictures of the snow, and helping Mikayla to try on ski gear regularly at home to get her used to the sensory impact of such bulky, unfamiliar clothing. She did exercises with Mikayla to strengthen the muscles she would use for skiing in order to minimise fatigue. Katy provided a detailed order of getting dressed, helped Mikayla’s mother develop a behavioural indicator and action plan for the teachers, and organised a back-up menu in case Mikayla couldn't manage the food provided. For Mikayla, it was the experience of a lifetime - one she will remember forever.

She has come such a long way in confidence and independence since the ski trip, and couldn't have done it without Katy - without the ability to have her own chosen, appropriate support worker thanks to the NDIS.

Making progress and making friends

Mikayla has also been managing her emotions much better this year thanks to the regular exercise and sensory input from attending a weekly circus class. Katy takes her once a week, and Mikayla loves to hang from the circus silks. The circus classes certainly have a calming effect on Mikayla, and she has been accepted into a community group she delights in.

Mikayla has been working with a mentor to help her learn how to be more independent around the care and management of her adored dog, Griffin. The mentor is helping Mikayla to train, walk, and care for all her dog's needs.

This year, thanks to the confidence in social skills she has gained from practice with Katy, Mikayla has developed deeper friendships with her peers. She likes to go to the movies and other social events with her friends, something that she would not have done in past years.

To top off a year of great progress, including being voted Year 11 House Captain, Mikayla won several school awards, and has even been re-elected as Year 12 House Captain for 2018!

What does the future hold for Mikayla?

Next year will be a big year for Mikayla as she prepares to leave school. Transition is often difficult for autistic people. It will be a year of exploring Mikayla's options for after she finishes year 12, possibly utilising a specialist driving school to begin learning to drive, and certainly practising and improving on the skills and independence she has gained this year. She will continue to work with her support worker and occupational therapist to improve time management and study skills.

Mikayla has made incredible progress thanks to the fantastic support she receives through the NDIS.