This week, we talk to Julie Spence about her son, Michael, aged 25.

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Tell us a little about you, your age, disability and current situation…
​Michael is 25, with a diagnosis of Down syndrome and Autism. He lives at home with us, his parents. He has three sisters who have moved out of home. Michael attended a mainstream primary school and then a specialist secondary school, both of which were positive experiences overall. His week is now filled with programs based at a Day Centre, plus some activities in the community. He does travel training, work experience, basketball, computer skills, personal development, drama, literacy and numeracy.
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Share with us all the amazing things your son can do, especially those that people in your local community may not realise he can do?
Michael plays soccer every week in a local team but his favourite outdoor activity is horse riding. He really looks forward to his fortnightly lessons run by the wonderful volunteers at Rideability. From day one, Michael has been relaxed and comfortable on the horses and continues to surprise us with the skills he has developed.

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What has been his biggest achievement to date? How did he achieve such big heights?
Michael’s greatest achievement has been to overcome the anxiety and panic attacks he started experiencing about five years ago. He developed phobias about a variety of things and for a while was almost unable to leave the house. Very slowly, and with the help of a good psychologist and medication, Michael was gradually able to take part in his outside activities again. We are so proud of the bravery and perseverance he has shown to face his fears and overcome them.

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What has been the hardest barrier for him to overcome?
As an adult, the biggest barriers for Michael are finding employment now and accommodation for the future. Michael would like to have a part-time job doing gardening or working in aged care but it’s proving difficult to find even a work experience placement. We, his parents, will soon face the challenge of finding supported accommodation for him. There is no clear path to achieve this as yet. Our region is not yet part of the NDIS but we hope it will assist Michael to continue to live a fulfilling life, to find future accommodation and also enable him to contribute to society.