Kurtis' prediction comes true
As a little boy Kurtis dreamed of playing professional football.
Kurtis has an intellectual disability and social anxiety so strong it has shaped his life. He has grown up feeling overwhelmed with fear in ordinary social situations like meeting someone new, talking on the phone, going places on his own, or even going outside at all.
We first met Kurtis three years ago when he was an 18-year-old school-leaver. In a work readiness program tailored to his interests, aims and abilities, Kurtis began receiving one-on-one instead of group support, since the challenges he experiences in social interactions meant this would be best for his progress.
It didn’t take many sessions with Kurtis, hearing him constantly talk about the latest footy results, for our staff to recognise this was his greatest passion. And to see that footy could be the perfect way for him to learn job skills.
So they encouraged him to start writing up his footy tips to help him improve his written and verbal communication, computer skills, and social skills. It soon evolved into him sharing his tips online with our other job-seekers and staff in the DSA Footy Tipping Competition. His proudest moment was predicting the recent Grand Final victory of his favourite team, the Cronulla Sharks!
Surprised Kurtis receiving his official and signed NRL Cronulla Sharks cap the week of their 2016 grand Final victory
“Absolutely he grew his skills, with spelling and the use of the computer, and his self-esteem,” says his Employment Consultant, Jasmin Onley.
“First when we started, I was sitting by him 100% of the time prompting his every move. By the end of the second NRL season he was doing them completely independently. His confidence has absolutely sky-rocketed. At the beginning he wouldn’t like us to take photos of him or talk about him, by the end he was doing NRL wrap-up videos.”
Another important skill that Kurtis wanted to learn, took him out from behind a computer to the train station, to master catching the train by himself – something he’d never done before.
“That was a big thing for Kurtis,” says Jasmin. “It was small steps, over about three weeks of traveling with him, sitting next to him on the train, then shadowing him – not sitting with him but watching from afar – to then just meeting him at the stops. Now he’s catching the train independently, he’s a different person.”
So much so that Kurtis, who is now 21, has found a job in supported employment, in the packaging team at a factory. His mum is delighted and proud. And Kurtis is slowly beginning to feel more confident in his abilities, and to relish the overall sense of wellbeing that working brings.
“I’m enjoying it,” Kurtis says. “I like getting up in the morning and going out there – it gets me good exercise. It will help me be more healthy. I walk 15 minutes to the place and back from the place.”
People like Kurtis have a lot to give in the workplace and within our community, if they receive support to achieve everything they’re capable of.
Kurtis proudly showing off his signed NRL Cronulla Sharks cap