Disability insurance helps Beaudesert siblings shape their own future

ABILITY: Emma and Matthew Gordon-Smith have harnessed skill and passion to shape their own futures. Photo: Supplied
ABILITY: Emma and Matthew Gordon-Smith have harnessed skill and passion to shape their own futures. Photo: Supplied

TWO Beaudesert siblings are showing the universe what they are made of and shaping a future for themselves despite their disabilities.

Both 27-year-old Emma Gordon-Smith and her brother Matthew, 23, were born with Down syndrome.

Their mother, Deb Gordon-Smith, said Matthew was also diagnosed with autism as a teenager and has some speech and communication challenges. Both joined local disability service providers after finishing school, but could not access the flexibility or one-on-one support they needed as they grew older.

“You can’t put two people with the same disability in the same category,” Ms Gordon-Smith said.

Rather than resigning her children to being boxed into a ‘one-size-fits-all’ model which didn’t make the most of their capabilities, Ms Gordon-Smith said she set about creating opportunities for Emma and Matthew herself.

She said the siblings ran three small businesses with the help of support workers funded by the National Disability Insurance Scheme.

Matthew Gordon-Smith is a familiar face around town, delivering coffee to regular customers.

Matthew Gordon-Smith is a familiar face around town, delivering coffee to regular customers.

Ms Gordon-Smith said Matthew was a welcome sight on Thursday mornings delivering coffee to the desks of local businesses around town with his support worker Justin as part of Matt’s Coffee2Go, taking orders via text message and giving everyone a bonus chocolate with their coffee.

“Under the NDIS, we can have a support worker go with him to help. It’s been wonderful,” Deb said.

“He’s a valuable member of the community. He’s offering a great service, and it’s great to see people back him. He has regular customers around town.”

Matthew also launched Snacks 2 Go several years ago to complement the coffee delivery service as well as Nature Inspired Wood Art which Matthew originally started with his previous support worker, Alan, making wooden clocks.

Matthew worked with his current support worker Bec to extend the project, also making rustic style wooden creations such as tables and chairs, candle holders,  and kids furniture. 

“We are grateful that these opportunities have enabled both Matt and Emma to enjoy their everyday lives in such a productive and fulfilled way,” Ms Gordon-Smith said.

“The community has been so supportive of them, they’ve become well known around town.

“Having them go out into the community with their support workers means people have become familiar with them.”

Emma also recently secured her first job as an administration assistant at Trilogy Accounting on William Street after a volunteering role through CentaCare led to a traineeship in business.

“She is just thriving,” Ms Gordon-Smith said.

“Tam helps Emma on Tuesdays while another support worker, Rachel, who is skilled in administration, goes along with her to Trilogy for extra administration support and to teach her computer skills, and everyone works together to make sure she’s achieving her goals.”

Trilogy Accounting's Sam Wilson with Emma Gordon-Smith at her new job.

Trilogy Accounting's Sam Wilson with Emma Gordon-Smith at her new job.

Ms Gordon-Smith said Emma had other NDIS funded support workers who helped her with her fitness program, food shopping, cooking and other life skills, and also a maths tutor to teach her basic maths and money-handling skills.

Emma’s boss at Trilogy Accounting, Sam Wilson said she was pleased with her progress on the job.

“She’s great on the computers, scanning or photocopying documents and general office duties,” Ms Wilson said.

“Emma is learning more and more each week. She is used to people prompting her but she can do a lot more than she thinks.

“The next step is to get her the training to help her integrate into the work environment so she can be more independent.”