Dale's journey to independence

I want to tell you a story about a boy who, when I first met him, was living with his grandparents – they had suddenly taken over his care from the time he was seven-and-a-half.

Can you imagine how life-changing it must have been to take on a full time parent role when you were just starting to think about retirement?

Adding to the trials of reliving parenthood so late in life was an additional challenge – their grandson, Dale, has an intellectual disability.

Although Dale’s journey hasn’t been without its challenges, you would be incredibly proud to see where this young man is today.

Let me start from the beginning, as told by Dale’s grandmother, Kate.

"As my husband, Greg, and I began approaching our later years, we started to think about how we would enjoy our impending retirement, planning holidays and how we would spend our time together.

Little did we know that everything in our lives was about to change.

In a matter of weeks, we went from doting grandparents to legal guardians of my seven-and-a-half-year-old grandson, Dale," Kate says.

Can you imagine? Instead of planning holidays and easing into a comfortable retirement, Kate and Greg found themselves packing lunchboxes and buying clothes for school.

"When Dale was little, it was clear he wasn’t developing as expected. He was hitting key milestones far later than other children his age. After various tests, he was diagnosed with Global Developmental Delay," Kate says.

Global Developmental Delay affects cognitive development, as well as motor skills, speech, social and emotional development. It can mean children living with the condition struggle with daily activities, such as eating and dressing.

"From the moment he came into our care, Dale required full time support," Kate says.

"My constant worry was for Dale’s future. Would he be able to get a job? Where would he live when we got older? And our greatest fear: who would support him when we no longer could?" says Kate.

For parents and caregivers, it can be hard to know what to do or who to turn to. Unfortunately, these are frightening thoughts for far too many families in this situation - particularly in areas that currently don’t have local disability services.

Research shows that expenses required to raise a child with severe disability are at least three times that of raising a child without a disability. And this doesn’t factor in the time spent out of work caring for the child.

Many of the hundreds of people supported by Minda require a high level of support in most aspects of life, such as daily care, work and in the home.

While people like Dale do receive some government funding, there is still a huge gap we need to fill that will allow us to extend our reach to families in crisis and provide them with opportunities for a great life.

"We were fortunate. Dale undertook work experience at Minda’s laundry services while he was at school and has been working there for almost 5 years now.

Dale also moved into a beautiful home in the community, not too far from us. It is a huge relief to know he is in an environment that gives him the independence he craves, but also the necessary support to help him get by on a day-to-day basis," Kate says.

Since I’ve known Dale, his confidence has soared. He is thriving with his responsibilities at work, at home, as part of Minda’s Self-Advocacy program and in his social life.

"Before I had help from Minda, life was miserable. Minda came into my life and I’m very happy about that. I am very lucky to have a job here and I’m very lucky that I have brilliant people to help me with everything," Dale says.

Dale has come incredibly far. He has learnt how to do things for himself like cooking and living independently in his home; he also enjoys looking out for others and offers his time volunteering at events and speaking about disability.

"I don’t know what I’d be doing if Minda wasn’t around. Nothing. I would be very bored and trying to find a job. I definitely wouldn’t be where I am now."

"I am very lucky to have the best support I can get. I can’t ask for anything better."

"I want to thank the people who donate money to us. If we didn’t have that money and people offering to help, we basically wouldn’t be here to help one another. It means a lot to us. We’re very lucky to have those people," Dale says.

"Minda is important because we help one another and it puts a smile on people’s faces when they walk through the doors. I’m very happy that Minda is helping me and everyone else," Dale says.

Kate and Greg can rest assured that their grandson is happy, well cared for and can continue to have opportunities that help him to achieve his potential and lead a fulfilling life.

"We feel so lucky to have been given the opportunity to watch Dale grow into the wonderful young adult he is today. Most rewarding of all, his future is looking brighter than ever," Kate says.

Your donations to Minda really do make a difference to people’s lives. Please will you donate to support people with disability?