Ben, from Oakleigh in the City of Monash, started attending Day Support activities at OC Connections in his late teens after finishing school.
During his time at OC Connections Ben, now 23 years old, has developed the confidence and social skills required to be more independent in his home, life and work – including the possibility of one day securing full-time open employment.
A key focus for those supporting Ben at OC Connections has been providing him every opportunity to increase his skills and self-esteem.
This has involved working alongside Ben to help him choose activities and programs that he’s interested in to give him the best chance of achieving his goals and the confidence to start thinking about his life-long aspirations.
Ben’s goal: “I want to feel confident and meet new people”
Early on, Ben was mainly focused on settling into his new learning environment at OC Connections. Ben was no different to any young person starting in a new learning environment – anxious but equally excited about the future.
The process focused on an Active support approach which enables the individual to have choice and control over how they use their supports and the goals they wish to achieve. This was coupled with regular formal and informal discussions with Ben and his family to encourage him to express his feelings and ambitions. This enabled a customised approach to meet Ben’s needs.
Through this process, his OC Connections team identified in Ben a strong foundation for achieving greater independence.
A genuinely kind and caring person, Ben adapted well to his new surroundings at OC Connections – making friends with other participants and staff alike.
Pleasingly for his mum Anne-Maree, Ben was more excited about his chosen activities at OC Connections than he had been before.
Over time Ben has developed the ability to identify and prioritise the tasks that need to be completed in an activity and also identifying opportunities to support other participants.
Ben has had the opportunity to reflect on his achievements, which has given him the confidence to consider further goals for his life outside of OC Connections.
With growing self-assurance Ben has been able to identify more far reaching goals and to communicate how he would like to go about achieving them.
Ben’s goal: “I want to do things that make me feel happy”
Supporting Ben to identify activities and opportunities that would increase his skills first involved asking what it was he wanted to achieve, listening to and understanding what he wanted to do and how he wanted to do it and finally identifying ways to achieve his goals.
This lifestyle mapping process has proven a highly effective tool for OC Connections in identifying people’s dreams and aspirations and supporting participants to achieve them.
It was through this process that Ben’s love of sailing was discovered.
Ben had enjoyed being on a boat prior to coming to OC Connections however his skills and experiences were limited. When Ben was offered the opportunity to join The OC Connections sailing program it was an easy choice and he embraced the new challenge with a positive attitude.
Today Ben is an active member of a sailing club at the Docklands and with support, has competed in regattas at both Docklands and at Albert Park.
Indeed, the biggest challenge Ben faces when it comes to sailing is being able to wipe the smile off his face.
Ben’s passion for sailing knows no bounds. His mum attributes his love for sailing to the feeling of freedom and independence her son experiences both on and off the water as a result of building this skill.
Along with sailing Ben has also been working in the garden where he has learned how to grow and maintain healthy produce all-year-round, nurturing a variety of plants both edible and decorative. Through the process of learning how to build the garden beds, Ben has also developed his skills with a range of garden and carpentry tools.
Ben’s Goal: “I want to learn more about working”
In late 2016, OC Connections introduced a new transition to employment opportunity for participants: Certificate I in Transition Education.
The course is designed to assist with goal planning and confidence building and enables participants to undertake learning activities that focus on independent living, vocational and employability skills, personal and social development and financial independence.
Given Ben’s goal to learn more about working, this course was identified as one that he may be interested in pursuing. OC Connections met with Ben and his family to discuss his potential involvement in the course which was met with excitement and anticipation. He was provided with support through the enrolment and induction process where he demonstrated a great deal of enthusiasm for the program.
What he has achieved:
Ben successfully graduated his Certificate I in Transition Education in June 2017 and celebrated soon after. As an extension to this achievement, Ben will commence his Certificate II, which focuses on goal setting for future employment. The skills he is building through this course include the ability to assess where his employment interests may lie and how they match with his current and future skill sets. With support Ben will continue to work towards achieving his goals to develop employment skills in readiness for the future.
Ben’s goal: “I would like to be able to work with people to change things.”
OC Connections invited Ben to join its “Brand Champion Committee”, advising on the design and roll out of the organisation’s new name and brand.
In his role as a committee member, Ben received presentation training in preparation for publically sharing the information with key stakeholder groups.
In 2016 the organisation changed its name and branding to OC Connections. In his capacity as Brand Champion Committee member, Ben expertly advised the organisation’s executive leadership team on how to best communicate this significant change to the other participants and their families as well as the broader community.
A big achievement for Ben was his successful presentation at the OC Connections Annual General Meeting in 2016.
Ben continues to build on his presentation skills, delivering important information about the brand at regular staff induction days.
More recently at OC Connections, Ben has taken on leadership roles including being an active member of the Client Committee and sitting on interview panels for prospective employees. He says he feels confident asking questions and felt great being part of the decision making process.
He was voted to be part of the Occupational, Health and Safety Committee who meet regularly.
Ben has most recently joined the Participant Reference Group, where he reads minutes to the group and raises issues and ideas for improvements for consideration by the OCC board of management.
A highlight has been his presentation at the 2019 and 2020 VALID Having a Say Conference in Geelong, where he presented a clear and confident speech about his achievements at OC Connections. He was delighted with his effort and would love to give a presentation again at next year’s event.
Ben’s goal: “I want to feel more confident in the work place”
Supporting Ben to practice the skills to enable him to feel more included in the community has given Ben the confidence to travel to familiar locations independently and with support, exploring new opportunities.
Ben’s part-time work at Melbourne company Soda-Tech has been a huge part of his life. He really enjoys his work and talks about it with great pride.
Supported by OC Connections and his employer, Ben independently goes about completing a variety of tasks and has become an active and appreciated member of the Soda-Tech team.
Ben says he feels a great sense of achievement being able to contribute to the organisation and enjoys having his own money for saving, shopping, catching up with friends.
According to Operations Manager Kerrie, the benefits to the organisation are far beyond just the quality work Ben completes, his positive attitude and team spirit helps boost staff morale and unites the Soda-Tech employees.
She also says that learning to assist Ben with his tasks has made her re-think how she supports other employees in their roles.
Ben is also developing his confidence travelling independently on public transport, shopping for groceries, preparing meals and walking alone to and from OC Connections.
There is little doubt that Ben’s continual development of life and work skills has contributed to his attaining greater personal and financial independence.
It would seem that each time Ben achieves a goal, he learns something new about himself and increases the desire to set new goals.
It is through this journey of self-discovery, that Ben has become a confident young man facing a bright future filled with opportunity and choice.
For Ben, the sky is the limit.