Building life skills and becoming independent are important steps for every young person. For young people with disability, support is sometimes necessary as they pursue their dreams and goals.

We sat down with Josh, who has been receiving support from Challenge Disability Services in Coffs Harbour since August 2018, as well as his support worker Sharon about how Josh’s life has changed for the better in recent months.

At just 23 years old, Josh lives with symptoms of Asperger syndrome, bipolar disorder, ADHD and OCD, all while living with his brother and caring for his three-year-old son.

Josh decided to take his future into his own hands and learn how to live independently, gain new life skills and pick up essential parenting tips to help take care of his son.

With these goals in mind, he’s already made great strides with the support of Challenge Disability Services in Coffs Harbour and his support worker Sharon.

How Challenge Connexions is supporting Josh to broaden his skill set

Josh spends five days a week with Challenge Connexions to build new skills for independent living and parenting. While most of that support structure is centred on one-on-one support, Sharon says Josh enjoys participating in group activities whenever he gets the opportunity.

“Challenge supports Josh to develop life skills such as housekeeping, budgeting, community appointments and parenting skills,” Sharon says. “Josh will also join in on social and group activities from time to time, including going to the movies and socialising in the community.”

And for Josh, he says he loves the way Challenge staff make an effort and are always available to him: “They make me feel normal.”

In terms of the bigger picture, Sharon has spent the past few months working with Josh on outlining – and striving towards – his goals.

 “Originally, Josh’s goals were capacity building and independent living,” she says. “And now Josh is living independently with his brother and three-year-old son. His other goal is to obtain his learner’s licence. This goal is still being worked on, and we regularly go online and practise the exam on the Service NSW website.”

Embracing yoga for greater physical and mental health

Aside from his regular time spent with Challenge, Josh has found a new lease on life through yoga and meditation. Josh says finding yoga was something of a “spur-of-the-moment type thing” but that since he’s taken it up he’s enjoyed greater mobility, flexibility and above all relaxation.

“Josh likes to meditate near the beach while doing his yoga, and he’s shared with staff that he gets a lot of satisfaction from it,” Sharon says.

Not only is it a favourite hobby for Josh, but he’s become so adept at practising yoga that he now leads classes for Challenge staff and clients.

“We have outings to Sawtell Headland, which looks out over the beach,” Sharon says. “Josh brings his sound bar, plays his yoga music and then takes the class. He is able to show clients the different moves and talk about how breathing is important while doing yoga.”

The outcome for Josh is a sense of purpose and regularity: “I feel like a well-functioning person who is learning more every day. The guys really get into it, especially Anand [another Challenge participant].”

Seeing changes every day

Sharon has seen remarkable growth in Josh since they first started working together in August 2018, not only through his yoga-teaching classes but also how he has adapted to parenthood.

“Since Josh has had his son in his care, staff have noticed the growth development in Josh’s life,” Sharon says. “He picks his own activity for the day and staff will support with him with it, which he likes. Josh and I recently went for a three-hour ride on the cycle tracks around Coffs and we nearly lost track of time because we were having so much fun!”

For support workers like Sharon, having clients feel comfortable enough to be open and honest with what’s going on in their lives is what makes it all worth it: “Josh now opens up to staff about certain problems he’s facing. He feels that we don’t judge – we listen. Then we support Josh to make better choices.”

If you would like more information about our Connexions program for young people with disability, please give us a call on 1800 679 129 or email us on disabilityservices@challengecommunity.org.au