By Melissa Keogh
AnglicareSA speech pathologist Megan Longbottom, 25, is helping young South Aussies with disabilities find their voice.
Based in the social service provider’s Autism Services Stream in Adelaide’s northern suburbs, Megan helps youth with disabilities to communicate either with words, communication devices, or sign language.
She may only be halfway through her 20s but has already managed to cement herself in South Australia’s health and disability sector, becoming a senior clinician at AnglicareSA and changing young lives.
“We naturally learn as young children to just start talking, but with these little ones with a disability that quite often never happens,” says Megan, an I Choose SA ambassador for Health and the NDIS.
“So to watch a child communicate independently and knowing that I had a part in that is probably the most amazing feeling.”
Growing up in a small country town in the state’s south east, Megan says she never wanted to do anything else with her life except help children with speech difficulties to learn to communicate.
“That was my only option when I finished school, speech pathology was all I wanted to do,” she says.
After graduating from Flinders University with a Bachelor of Speech Pathology Megan went rural for one year, working at SA Health before securing her current role.
She’s been with AnglicareSA since October 2015, but it’s over the past several months she has noticed major differences in the health sector due to the ongoing roll out of the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS).
The NDIS is for people with disabilities aged under 65 years, providing them with a funding package tailored to their care and support needs.
It’s expected to support more than 32,000 people with disabilities in SA once fully implemented by July, 2018.
“The NDIS has made a huge impact for participants and service providers,” Megan says.
“Individuals who were previously unable to access any support due to waiting lists or funding barriers are now able to have more control over the services they access, and the NDIS gave that to them.”
Aside from working as an NDIS customer advocate and working with children in AnglicareSA’s Autism Service Programs, Megan co-ordinates the Outreach Autism Therapeutic Service (OATS).
OATS is a one-on-one program for children diagnosed with a development delay or disability and involves speech pathologists and occupational therapists visiting homes, schools or childcare centres to improve communication skills, social interaction, and fine and gross motor skills.
Megan says that while the majority of her young clients have autism, others have developmental delay disorders, intellectual disabilities and mental health issues.
Some of her clients are aged as young as two, while others are young adults in their 20s.
“We work with a number of children who are non-verbal, so they have previously had no means of communication,” Megan says.
“We support them in implementing a communication device, whether that be an iPad or sign language, to give them the ability to use their voice to request different things.
“I think all the people who have access to the NDIS have really benefited from the service, especially those who didn’t have a lot of support in place before.”
Megan says she enjoys working at an organisation that provides a holistic service to clients.
“AnglicareSA also offers a broad range of services whether that be from financial services, to children’s respite care or adult disability services,” she says.
“It means we can support families throughout all aspects of their life … that’s what I really love about AnglicareSA.”
The organisation has a 150-year history in SA, employing 1800 staff, 700 volunteers and supporting almost 58,000 South Australians each year through a range of programs including foster care, aged care and Aboriginal services.
Megan says like many service providers across the state, AnglicareSA will be expanding its portfolio to cater from demand the NDIS brings.
And this, she says, means more jobs for young graduates and health care professionals.
“I can see the prospects in SA (and) the employment sector, and Adelaide as a place to live is growing, changing and really meeting the needs of a young working population,” Megan says.
“I have no plans to ever leave SA … it’s where I grew up and it’s where my passion is.”
Visit I Choose SA for Industry to learn more stories about key industry leaders, why they’ve chosen SA as a base and how the state is enabling them to succeed.