2023 International Down Syndrome Day: Going to work without mum

We cannot deny the desire to live our own lives and make our own decisions; this includes people with Down syndrome.

Based on information from Down Syndrome International, people with Down syndrome often have poor or controlling support. Often their supporters do things For them, not With them.

In order to support the 2023 International Down Syndrome Day ‘With Us Not For Us’ campaign, AYS got the chance to speak with Sarah Keating, one of our participants, who was born with Down syndrome. Accompanied by Sarah’s mother, Wendy Kortman, we have learned how important the campaign is to Sarah and why.

Sarah introduced herself as a 34-year-old Deakin University employee, where she has been employed for three years and currently works as an assistant in the Student Services area. Sarah outlined her tasks which included enrolling students, making ID cards, mailing cards to students as well as creating folders with names and numbers (for records).

Wendy endorsed Sarah’s outline of her responsibilities at Deakin University and emphasised the importance of Sarah’s coach, Maddi McNabb, an AYS Employment Support Mentor, who works with her to ensure Sarah’s individuality leads to inclusive outcomes in the workplace.

“Sarah has been given more responsibility to do at work. She spends a lot of time on the computer. Students sometimes ask Sarah to update their postal addresses, so she had to change it in the system.”

“Maddi came on board 18 months ago. She understands diversity and differences. Instead, rather than putting a large cross on differences as a failure, she works with participants.” Wendy says.

Wendy believes that Sarah’s confidence and independence have increased due to teamwork and support from AYS. Consequently, Sarah stated how happy she was working with Maddi and how they ‘problem solved’ together when necessary.

“I can see Sarah walking through the door when she gets home, and I can tell from her body language that she is just having a fantastic day with Maddi. This is very positive.”

“It is also positive to work collaboratively with Maddi on the rare occasions when experiential understanding may help. I think I get more sleep now than I did previously.”

“Even when it was only a tiny thing, the AYS team always addressed changes with minimal administrative procedures that respected both participants and staff. For instance, there aren’t five levels of approval needed to make changes for a simple roster change.” Wendy says.

In addition to working with Sarah, Maddi now provides a share drive arrangement for Sarah to go to work. This is another professional step where Sarah smiled with pleasure.

Sarah enjoys dancing, particularly at big events, her most recent performance at the Moomba festival in Melbourne, and she has now decided to learn about being a choreographer.

It was nice to hear about Sarah’s progress in her ability to live her own life and make her own decisions, and just before she left, Sarah shouted joyfully, “Now I can go to work without my mum!”

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