Zane Vasilikiotis has become a well-known face around Novita.
The 20-year-old lives with intellectual disability, bilateral coloboma (a condition that affects the eyes), vision and hearing impairment, needs support with his fine and gross motor skills, and he’s non-verbal.
Zane has been receiving one-on-one support from Novita’s support workers, and he and his family are very keen for him to join Transition to Work (TTW), which supports young people develop the skills they need to find and maintain employment.
Zane is more than just a Novita client. In fact – according to his mum Denise and dad Stavros – Zane considers the two days a week that he spends at Novita as his work.
“He loves the fact that he wears his uniform – we call it his uniform – his Novita shirt and Novita jacket. He’s coming along in leaps and bounds, and when he gets home he is constantly ‘talking’ about what he did during the day and the people at Novita that he works with,” say Denise and Stavros.
“Zane uses a tablet device with a PODD system to communicate. He also has a communications book that the Novita team uses to update us about what Zane has been up to, what he’s been excited about, and how he’s feeling. So that gives us some insight into the stories Zane ‘tells’ us about his time at Novita.”
Denise and Stavros, who also have a 13-year-old daughter Raphaelle, say Zane is very social and loves being around others.
“He may not always participate, but he likes to have people around him. Especially loud and extroverted people – he probably needs that, because he’s very quiet. We call him an observer rather than a participator. Having people around him helps him to engage,” they say.
Zane has been a Novita client since he was 13 years old. He started in the Teen Zone after-school care program. Since COVID-19 impacted vacation and after-school care last year, he’s been working one-on-one with the Transition to Work team, first at Regency Park and now at the Hindmarsh Central Therapy hub.
“That has given him a routine of opportunities, and that’s also how we have become connected with TTW. The TTW team, including Jessica, Tom, Gavin and Ethan really understand him and they have seen the potential in him. Sometimes when we look at kids living with disability we only see the disability, rather than the opportunity and the ability,” say Denise and Stavros.
“We have been able to use the core support funding though Zane’s National Disability Insurance Scheme plan for the one-on-one Novita support.
“Like all families, our goal for Zane is to be as independent as he can be, to be happy, and to find some sort of purpose and value in his life on a day to day basis, as well as a long-term basis, and Novita is supporting him to achieve that.”
Importantly, Denise and Stavros believe Zane’s presence in the Novita office is also having an impact on the staff, especially those working closely with him.
“With the support of the TTW team, Zane has become much more responsible in the office setting – they don’t allow him to be any different than anyone else. It’s another important step towards Zane finding employment and being more independent,” say Denise and Stavros.
“He has started getting to know everyone in the office and where they sit. As a result the Hindmarsh hub staff members have become more interested in Zane’s story, and some of them even want to learn signing so they can communicate better with him. Actually having someone like Zane in the office encourages people to put many of the things they talk about – such as inclusiveness – into practice.”
Novita’s Service Coordinator, Community Programs – Jessica Zakelj – says the team has been able to create a transitional period for Zane before he formally becomes a participant in Transition to Work.
“This has been a great success because we’ve been able to spend one-on-one time with Zane and work with his family to develop a goal-focussed plan that meets his specific support needs,” says Jessica.
“We have also been able to learn a number of important things about Zane, which have been very valuable. One of the things we have learned about Zane, as well as being something identified by his family, is that he is really engaged when he is given jobs to do, so he has some set jobs during the two days he spends with us each week. For example, Zane has become an important member of our gardening and maintenance team.”
Jessica believes the work the team has been doing with Zane has given Novita an insight into how Transition to Work may evolve to support more young people living with disability.
“Our gardening programs, the Novita cafes at Hindmarsh and Thebarton, and even our popular Bingo sessions are allowing us to expand the options available for those young people living with disability.”