Maria’s story- asking the questions others don’t

My name is Maria Henao. I am the manager for person centred practice at Woodville Alliance.

What’s Person Centred Practice you ask? It’s about making sure our programs are tailored to the loves, passions and skills of our service users. It’s about the person receiving the services, not the organisation delivering them.  john paul art work

I look after the operational aspect of Woodville’s day programs. As we work primarily with young adults with an Intellectual Disability our activities are targeted at helping people build their independent living skills; to travel independently, cook independently and handle money independently. These are essential for going on to live more independently, to access work or study.

Woodville was my introduction into the disability sector. I graduated with a Bachelor in Psychology and a keen interest in intellectual disability. I applied for a Program coordinators role and that was where it all began!

woodville-logo-colour-rally -high resDuring high school I wasn’t too sure what was out there. When we think about disability services we often think, “Oh, there’s only one job there -a support worker.”  Although once I started at Woodville, I was working alongside accountants, psychologists, psychiatrists, speech therapists, physiotherapists.  Disability Services is far more that front-line support – although this is an extremely important role – there are a lot of behind the scenes positions.

That’s one reason I like being part of projectABLE.

I want young people toIbi playing Guitar know there are lots of options out there. You don’t have to settle for one role.What is common across different roles and job descriptions is a passion for people. The difference you get to make in the lives of others is amazing.  It’s extremely rewarding.

A story to illustrate. When I first started I was working with a woman with autism. She also had high levels of social anxiety. She couldn’t go to her mail box. But we don’t focus with what she can’t do, or what she has difficulty with. We ask the questions people don’t usually ask, to gather as much information as we can.

What does she love? Well, she loves numbers. She loves swimming. So we spoke with her family and got her involved in bingo, gave her opportunities to swim. Slowly, over a year and a half we saw her confidence grow. She now has friends and participates in some of our community events.

This is what the sector offers. It’s a place where you watch someone you have assisted dance in a performing artsHand shake after a good flight - Lee Veil show, when previously they struggled to leave the house. A place where parents who immigrated to Australia, who lived in refugee camps, tell you your programs have changed their child’s life and that they’ve never been happier.

They say if you love what you do you never work a day in your life.  How can you not love making such amazing differences to the lives of the people you support every day?




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