Recently, all Lifestart staff came together for LifeSTAFF Day, a day of networking, professional development and learning. The theme of this year’s event, ‘Sharing Stories: Ideas to Action’ had a focus on people’s lived experience of disability, as well as stories about the work of Lifestart staff.
A highlight of the day was the open and honest accounts that invited guests and speakers gave of their personal journeys and the supports which have made a difference to their lives. Lifestart staff also presented on topics ranging from augmentative and alternative communication to supporting inclusive practice in mainstream schools. These sessions provided staff with information and practical ideas to share with the people they are supporting.
In his keynote presentation, Travis Saunders shared the experience that he and his partner Fiona had in parenting their son Patch through the time of his initial diagnosis with autism, starting school and learning about the world. His story of the family’s bike trip across America demonstrated what the world could teach Patch in a “School of the Road” outside a classroom and the impact this had on him and his family. It showcased the importance of a child’s strengths and interests, in celebrating their identity, making connections and learning. Travis also spoke of the experiences he and Fiona have had meeting people on the spectrum all over the world as they produced and hosted the popular ABC podcast, The Parenting Spectrum.
The closing keynote speaker, Fiona Given is a lawyer currently working to advocate for people with disabilities to make choices through her role on the Guardianship Division of the NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal. Fiona was born with cerebral palsy and uses a power wheelchair and a communication device. She shared her experience of growing up and advocating for her rights along the way. Fiona gave us real insight into the battles she faced to get equality in her education and her experiences seeking employment and working as a lawyer.
LifeSTAFF Day was a great opportunity for staff to come together, spend time to reflect on their work and learn new skills and strategies to support children and young people.