Jack Pellizzer is in his last year of high school in Broken Hill. He likes school and, like most 18-year-old boys, he also likes music and movies. But until recently it was difficult for him to tell people what he liked and wanted.
Jack has a number of undiagnosed conditions. After years of genetic testing, he and his parents, Andrew and Melanie, have no answers. He is non-verbal and needs a wheelchair to get around. But last year, Jack and his parents met Angela. And their lives changed.
Angela Turner works at Social Futures in Broken Hill and is a Local Area Coordinator for the National Disability Insurance Scheme. In her role she helps people with disabilities and their families to access the supports and therapies they need in order to live their best life.
“Angela! She’s fantastic!” Jack’s mum, Melanie, exclaims. “She really helped us with this Eyegaze technology – she was really on the ball.”
An Eyegaze is a computer with a special camera which tracks a person’s eye movements. This then moves a mouse on a computer screen, laptop or speech-generating device. It can be used to play games, to access the internet, to operate a TV, telephone or music, and importantly, to communicate.
“Now he’s able to tell us things instead of us ruling his life,” Melanie says. “He can tell us when he’s not feeling well, it’s just amazing – he’s over the moon.
“Before we would need to clean up after him, but now he can tell us if he needs help to go to the toilet. It’s amazing. He goes to school and he’s able to tell them what he wants – it’s made life so much easier. Now he is able to tell us, now he is doing the prompting.” Finally, Jack has greater choice and control. And that is what the NDIS is all about.
“Before the Eyegaze (Jack) used a PODD communication book for many years, which has the same symbols as the Eyegaze,” Melanie says.“He would look at a sentence, for example, ‘I want’. “But by the time I flicked through all these pages to work out what it was he wanted, he wasn’t looking anymore, he just can’t concentrate for that long.Whereas the Eyegaze is pretty instant, it turns a page in 1.4 seconds.”
Melanie says she has not had an issue with the NDIS at all. “It’s been brilliant. Even with his therapies and things,it’s been fantastic,” she says.“He’s getting weekly therapies – physio and occupational therapy – and a speech therapist comes up from Adelaide to visit the school every few months.“A few weeks before our first plan was due to expire, we had a meeting with Ange and we were able to go through what Jack was like with his respite and activities, what was working for him and what wasn’t. “Ange was able to gather quotes and things and work out what we really needed so when the new plan rolled in, it was seamless. No hiccups, no waiting. She made it easy for us, explaining things – she went through everything.”
“Ange was able to gather quotes and things and work out what we really needed so when the new plan rolled in, it was seamless. No hiccups, no waiting. She made it easy for us, explaining things – she went through everything.”