Last week, Dan and some of his friends from Yellow Bridge boarded the P & O cruise ship, the Aria, and headed up to the Whitsunday Islands for a four night cruise. The Whitsundays are a group of islands 900km north of Brisbane in the heart of the Great Barrier Reef. They are a very popular tourist attraction, with white sandy beaches, blue tropical waters and offer a range of activities for tourists.
It is not always easy for people with disabilities to go away for a holiday with their friends, so this was a very exciting opportunity. Yellow Bridge, Dan’s main service provider, organised the trip, which made it a lot easier. Dan has been on plenty of family holidays, but this was the first time he had been away on a holiday with his friends. And the first time on a cruise!
Taking a cruise with your friends sounds like such a simple thing that most people just take for granted, however for people with disabilities it takes a lot of organisation. Dan requires support and supervision 24/7. He cannot go anywhere unaccompanied. This is where the NDIS has made a huge difference to the lives of people with disabilities. Prior to the NDIS, family members, especially parents, have fulfilled the role of full-time carer, taking their child here and there, and providing the assistance for daily activities. But there comes a time in a young man’s life when it is no longer appropriate to be always accompanied by your mum. So with the help of Dan’s NDIS funding, he was able to go on the cruise with the assistance of a support worker.
I wasn’t worried about Dan going on the cruise. He had been away on school camps before and they had always gone fine. But as parents, there is a whole lot of little things about our child and their routine that support workers don’t know – hygiene routines, dietary information, managing spending money, anxieties or phobias… Most of the time these things are not written down. It’s all in our heads. But it is this kind of information that needs to be passed onto the support worker. To avoid a verbal info dump, I prepared a two page document with all the information the support worker needs to assist Dan. This is actually a very important thing for all parents who have an adult child with a disability to do. Especially if your child is non-verbal, like Dan. One day we won’t be here and nobody will be able to retrieve the information stored in our heads.
In the lead up to the trip, we had talked a lot with Dan about his “holiday on a boat” so by the time the day came, he knew what was happening: bus, then boat. He was very excited to pack his bag and couldn’t wait to get going. Fortunately Yellow Bridge had organised a bus from Toowoomba down to the port, and Dan couldn’t wait to get on the bus. Too excited to even worry about saying bye to mum!
It was very quiet at home. Dan loves to sing and annoy his sister, Bec. You don’t realise all the little things you do, the support you provide, how your whole daily routine revolves around your family member with a disability. It gave a little taste as to how life might be when Dan moves into some kind of supported accommodation in the future.
The Time of His Life
Yellow Bridge staff kept us notified about how the cruise was going and I received a few photos from his support worker and knew that things were going great. They dressed up for the theme nights – the P & O White Party, the Anchors Away Sailaway Party and the Gatsby Party. They played Bingo, went to the theatre shows, went swimming in the pool, and had plenty to eat. One day they visited Airlie Beach where the support workers helped Dan choose an appropriate gift for Mum. When I picked him up at the end of the week, they told me that Dan had the time of his life. He danced and he danced and he danced and he danced. And at home on the weekend…he slept.
Dan is not able to tell us much about his cruise but we can see how much fun he had by the photos and videos taken on his iPad by both him and the support worker. All the photos above were taken by Dan. It is so great to see Dan doing the kinds of things that other young men his age are doing and we look forward to Dan having more holiday adventures in the future.