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NDIS - From Social Isolation to Participation

Updated: May 6

From left to right: Excited new learner drivers Tyler, Jack, (second and third from left), and Monique, (right), with support workers Chris, (left) and Ani, (second from right).

The Journey from Social Isolation to Community Participation

“Sometimes just overcoming anxiety and getting out the front door can feel insurmountable…”

Earlier this year young NDIS participants Lachey, Monique, Jack, Tyler, and Izzy took their first brave steps on a journey towards greater independence by enrolling in the Changing Gears “Get your L’s” program at the REALM Library in Ringwood.


Monique, Jack and Tyler finished their program and passed the Learner Permit Test.

However, Izzy had such strong anxiety, she wasn’t able to attend the class and finish the training. She did not show up on day one, but after some encouragement from Head Facilitator Linda, made it as far as the REALM carpark on day two.


Lachey made it to day one opening up about his issues with traditional teaching methods, which was a powerful sharing moment for everyone. That was all he was ready for on this occasion.


“It doesn’t matter that Lachey and Izzy didn’t complete their program in four days,” said Changing Gears Program Director Linda, “for those with severe anxiety, the journey from isolation to participation in community can be daunting, and sometimes it needs to be a gradual one.” 


Linda continued and explained her approach to teaching young people with anxiety, which last year yielded a 98% pass rate.


“Our focus is always on patient, compassionate support, reducing stress and making learning fun. That’s why we celebrate every step clients take out of their house towards our program (and the outside world) as a win. For Lachey and Izzy, their program has just begun, and we will continue to support and encourage them to complete the training in their own time, which will probably be later this year

Monique, Jack and Tyler bravely continue…

Monique, who attended with her mother Ani, was extremely anxious on the first day.


“It’s all so fast!” she commented, “I feel like I can’t remember things!”

Ani too, looked anxious for her daughter.


“That’s not a problem,” said Head Facilitator Linda, “we’ll just keep going over things until you feel like you can remember them. Until you feel comfortable."


"Do you mind if we go over things for Monique?” Linda asked Tyler and Jack.


“Of course not,” both boys replied, showing generous support for their classmate.


Trainer Nikki sat by Monique, providing a calming influence, “Do you know, the fear of doing something is often worse than doing the thing itself,” she told Monique who, by the end of the day, felt calmer. Especially after Nikki went over things with her.


This proved critical on the day of her test, but more about that later…

The seeds of independence start to grow for Monique

On the second day, Ani went to sit next to her daughter.

 “No!” Monique shook her head, “I want Nikki to sit by me!”


Nikki did, and with her and Linda’s help, Monique and the boys were answering questions like pros by the end of day three. Nikki explained to Ani the significance of her daughter's insistence to sit with her, instead of her mother. 


“Monique is learning how she learns independently. She’s beginning to ask for the resources and support she needs to succeed,” said Nikki, “that’s positive growth.”

Tyler Gets his L’s and looks to future goals.

Over the four days the students created meaningful connections with each other. They started sharing what they’d do once they’d achieved the goal of getting their L plates.

Students Monique, (left), and Tyler, (right), working on their tests at Mitcham VicRoads.

After learning he’d passed his test at VicRoads Tyler said to Nikki, “I want to be a veterinary assistant.”

“Oh, that’s wonderful,” Nikki encouraged him, “now you have your learner permit, you’ll be able to drive with any vet to callouts! You are one step closer to your dreams.”

The two shared animal photos while Jack and Monique sat their tests. Jack was next to finish and passed with flying colours. But the test experience wasn’t so easy for Monique…

Monique faces a big challenge.

Twenty-six questions into the thirty-two-question test, Monique’s computer experienced a glitch, froze, and could not be restarted.


“I’m so sorry, but you will have to start the test again on a new computer,” said Disna the VicRoads test coordinator.


At this news Monique put her head down on the bench and cried. A compassionate Disna did her best to console her.


Nikki chimed in with a helpful reminder of what Monique had learnt about overcoming obstacles on the first day of the program, “Just remember, the fear of doing something is often worse than the doing itself,” she continued encouragingly, “you’ve got this!”


Monique gave her a thumbs up, steeled herself and courageously began again.

Proud new learner permit owners Tyler, (left), Jack, (middle), and Monique, (right), with their L plates at Mitchum VicRoads.

Monique applies self-determination and Ani, her mother, cries tears of joy.

“Congratulations, you’ve passed!” beamed Disna as she delivered the news to Monique. Monique grinned from ear to ear and Ani, her mother, broke down in tears.


“That’s wonderful! It means so much,” she cried to the rejoicing of the group.

Support worker Chris beams as he shares his impressions of Tyler’s experience.

“Tyler’s not only got his L’s, I’ve never seen him so engaged. He was having fun!... I’m going to recommend this program to so many other NDIS support workers!” he enthused.

Memories of positive change and lessons learned

In closing Nikki spoke to the class,


“I want you to know that just as you worked hard and were successful here today, you can use what you’ve learnt to work hard and achieve more goals in life. I’m so proud of you all!”

On behalf of Changing Gears, our sincere thanks go to all of our students, their support workers and the VicRoad’s team in Ringwood. Together we’ve created lasting achievement and community connection for our students.

Lachey and Izzy’s program has only just begun.

We also congratulate Lachey and Izzy for the first steps they’ve taken with us so far. We look forward to supporting them both in one of our upcoming programs later this year.

Changing Gears trainers Nikki, (left) and Linda (fourth from right) with Tyler, Jack, Monique and VicRoads Mitchum team members Sarah, (third from left), Kat, (right), and Team Leader Disna, (third from right).

Future Programs

May 2024 - Get your L's

In Person | 4-days | Max 10 people

📅 The program dates are at the Realm Library, Ringwood:

10am to 2 pm - 6 May Monday

10am to 2 pm - 7 May Tuesday

10am to 2 pm - 8 May Wednesday

10am to 2 pm - 9 May Friday at Mitchum VicRoads


We will hold a seat for you until your support coordinator can approve your enrollment.

July 2024 - Get your L's

In Person | 4-days | Max 10 people

 📅 The program dates are at the Realm Library, Ringwood:

10am to 2 pm - 1 July Monday

10am to 2 pm - 2 July Tuesday

10am to 2 pm - 3 July Wednesday

10am to 2 pm - 4 July Friday at Mitchum VicRoads


We will hold a seat for you until your support coordinator can approve your enrollment.

Click here to learn more and find out about delivery of the Changing Gears program.

Call 0430 217 401 to find out more about Changing Gears.

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