Nicole Telfer (she/her, disability and inclusion practitioner): When choosing a service for your family, you’ll be thinking about how a service values and respects your family, but also whether they have the skills and experience to meet the disability needs of your child.
Dee (parent of Max and Oscar): When looking for a new service provider, I’m looking specifically at what goal and what need it's trying to meet for Max. First and foremost, when looking for – trying to find that new service, I start with existing service providers. Who do you know? And then once I’ve kind of got an idea of the kind of support I’m looking for, then it's, ‘Let’s hit the message boards, groups for autistic people. Let’s hit the local ADHD groups. Let’s talk to friends and family. Who are you working with? Who are you finding that’s really great at the moment in this area?’ And you often find through word of mouth the people that you wouldn’t find otherwise. And often, you kind of find out who to avoid as well. By talking to enough people, you’ll often find the right person to help you achieve the goal that you're after at that moment in time.
Nicole Telfer: Families have different needs and different priorities. Some families will choose to seek out disability-specific type services, whereas others might look for queer-identified services or individuals. Whichever way you go is up to you. You know your family best. You know what's important to your family and what your family needs. But remember that along the way, you can change your mind, and you can change your services.
Caz (parent of Sam): When I go to choose a new service for therapy for Sam, I look at a service that has a really good understanding of autism and a really good understanding of the needs of a child with severe autism. If I was choosing a care service, then I will look slightly differently. I will try and identify the needs that Sam has in that situation, and I choose an appropriate service and that that could meet those needs. I have an agency that does his after-school care. I use support workers four times a week. Sam is a child who actually likes having different people around him. He really enjoys that. He sees it as a friend who he’s playing with for the day. I honestly think that’s how he sees it. Because he does, he just plays with them. And he loves it. So, having different carers actually works for us quite well.
Jax Brown, OAM (they/them, LGBTIQA+ disability educator): I have a lot of different humans in my life and a lot of different kinds of support in my life. And I guess the main kind of common thread that I used to find supports that work for me is my queer network and the people that are trusted by other LGBTIQA folk to provide services and supports that feel responsive and receptive and respectful of our identities. I’ve just been really clear when I’ve contacted them about who I am and what my identities are. Though I don’t expect them to be LGBTIQA+, but I expect them to kind of feel comfortable navigating what that means for me and my family.
Nicole Telfer: Some families feel really comfortable being upfront and direct with providers about their family and what they need. For other people, that can be more difficult. They may have had a bad experience with a previous service provider where they didn't feel safe in their responses.
Dee: There’s still stigmas attached to being gay, to being queer, to being in same-sex relationship, to being non-binary, to being trans. All those things, I’m in a really privileged position that I can stand up and say, 'This is who I am. Deal with it. And if you don’t like it, take a jog.' But there aren't – I know not everybody’s in that position. I’m interviewing for new speech pathologists for both boys at the moment who have different speech pathology needs. And my upfront email includes the fact that the kids have two mums and that we are a neurodiverse household, and that they need to be able to work with all of us as we are, and is that something they're interested in doing.
Nicole Telfer: For some families, there might be limited choices in services. For example, if you live in a rural or remote area, there might not be a lot of options, and you might find yourself in a position where you need to work with the services that are there. So when you're setting those expectations, you might want to write down things like the roles and responsibilities. Be clear about how you share information and how you talk about your family. Be clear about the things that are okay and not okay in your home. Talk through how you want them to respond in certain situations.