When I started the Community Connections Program (CCP), I wasn’t too sure what to expect or what I wanted to do but I knew I needed support. I am diagnosed with Autism, and I care full-time for my mother, who has stage 4 cancer. When I started the program, I was stressed with my new caring role, and I did not have any real-life social activities (but I did have a lot of online friends).
After talking to my CCP Coordinator, Rodney, he asked me if I liked Dungeons and Dragons (D&D). My eyes lit up as I have played D&D since I was in primary school. Maybe for 20 years now. I have all the equipment for D&D including a Dungeon Master costume, mat, dice, characters, and backpack. Rodney told me about a weekly D&D group gaming activity at a Community Centre, but it would take me 2 hours by bus, and I can’t afford a taxi each week.
Rodney provided transport for me to attend the D&D activity on a weekly basis. It took me a while, but I made new friends at the group and the Dungeon master is awesome! Rodney explained that he couldn’t provide ongoing transport and that I would need to start considering affordable transportation options so that I could keep attending the D&D sessions. This is when we discussed adding it as a goal to my CCP Plan.
"The D&D sessions inspired me to socialise and to work on long term goals."
As time went by in the program, my stress levels reduced, and I looked forward to my weekly D&D sessions. I felt ready to start connecting to other services. Rodney, with my consent, helped to refer me to:
- Free Counselling services to help me with my stress.
- Maxima who will support me to investigate a NDIS Access Request
- Community Passenger Networks who have agreed to provide discounted transport for me to attend my weekly D&D social group.
- Carers Gateway and Carers SA who kindly offered me professional driving lessons.
- Learners to Probation (L2P) services who can connect to a mentor for regular driving lessons so that I can get my driver license.
The D&D sessions inspired me to socialise and to work on long term goals so that I can have friends, socialise, manage my stress levels, get my license and hopefully one day I would also like to get a job.
The CCP has really helped me to get out of the house and socialise, have time to myself outside of my caring role and look forward to my future.
When I met Owen, he was unsure what he wanted to do and setting goals was not something that came easy. But discussing hobbies and interest suddenly opened an entire new world for Owen. Or in D&D speak, an entire new adventure or campaign!
Owen understood that once his 12 weeks of the CCP was completed, he could no longer seek transport assistance from the program to attend D&D at the community centre. This was a positive motivation to start setting longer term gaols and referring out to services that could support him in the longer term.
I have observed Owen’s stress levels reduce, his confidence grow, and he is now supporting other participants to overcome social anxieties. Owen’s mother spoke to me on one occasion and expressed her gratitude as she has seen a noticeable difference in Owen’s mood and is glad that he has social activities outside of his caring role.
I strongly believe that without the support of other community services and community centres, that Owen would continue to be socially isolated and that his stress levels would have escalated to unhealthy levels. Which is the beauty of the Community Connections Program, as coordinators we can walk alongside participants and help link them into supports that will provide great opportunities and help reduce isolation.