NDIS Coach Amelia, from My Plan Manager’s online community Kinora, explains how connecting with other people who understand can make all the difference, especially when you’re new to disability and the NDIS.
An injury, illness or new diagnosis can thrust you into the world of disability, and in an instant can change the way you thought about your future, relationships, and even your own self-identity. Suddenly you have new challenges to conquer and new complex systems to navigate, with no guide to make your way through it.
Even if you’re lucky enough to have a great support network around you, not everyone in your life will really ‘get it’. One of the best things we can do to help navigate through this unfamiliar new world, is to connect with people who have been through it too. In fact, a study by the University of Washington found that the more friends we have with a shared diagnosis, the higher our quality of life and social satisfaction.
Here are the top ways that you can find and connect with other people going through a similar experience to you, for information and emotional support:
1. Peer support groups
There are all sorts of peer support groups for all number of different specialties, whether you’re looking to connect with people with a particular disability, living in a certain location, or with a specific interest. Some will meet face-to-face whilst others will meet online, but they are all free to join.
You can search for a group here: https://www.peerconnect.org.au/peer-networks/
2. Social Media groups
Facebook has many groups dedicated to people with disability which can be either private or public, and cover really broad areas to quite narrow. You can search for keywords that matter to you within facebook to find one that fits.
These groups can be great to get advice, but because they are usually moderated by volunteers (if at all), some groups can have a bit of a negative vibe and provide incorrect information. Test the waters with a few groups until you find that one that has a positive community spirit.
You can find advice on keeping safe online here: https://www.esafety.gov.au/
3. Kinora online forum
Kinora is an online space for everyone in the Australian disability community to connect, ask questions and share their stories and knowledge. It is professionally moderated so discussion remains safe, respectful, and judgement-free. Being anonymous, you can feel free to share or ask whatever you want to without fear of criticism. Kinora also has specially trained NDIS Coaches (like me!) available during business hours to answer any tricky NDIS questions.
4. Connect through advocacy groups and charities
A lot of advocacy groups and disability charities have their own community groups and social events, or you could volunteer your own time to help out. This can be a great way of connecting with others who are involved in the wider disability community. Reach out to organisations directly for details about social groups or how to volunteer with them.
Search to find disability organisations on Disability Advocacy Finder or Disability Australia Hub or look for support organisations specifically for parents and carers.
However you go about finding your new tribe, do it with an open mind and an open heart. You never know what genuine friendships might bloom as a result.
Amelia is an NDIS Coach on Kinora where she taps into her years of experience in the disability sector to help people navigate the NDIS. She loves communicating and connecting with people from all walks of life, and always aims to empower and motivate people to get the most out of their lives.