Established in 2021, disability service provider Hamers Edge has supported the neurodiverse community in Perth with support coordination and social work services.
NDSP Plan Managers chatted with Gwen Hamers, Hamers Edge’s Managing Director, to learn more about their programs and the inspiration behind the organisation.
Gwen’s daughter, Norah, was diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) when she was about two years old. And with an end goal of developing a positive future for her daughter, she founded Hamers Edge to help the larger community of people with autism, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and other types of neurodivergence.
How has parenthood changed you?
Norah is my only child. Having her in my life has changed me in many ways I could never have imagined.
As a social worker, I always thought that I had a decent understanding of what autism is. But little did I know about autism in females and how differently it presents.
When I started working again after maternity leave , Norah went to a family day care in the Perth Hills. The lady at the day care, who has autism herself, started picking up many subtle traits of ASD in my daughter.
At the age of 23 months, Norah got diagnosed with Level 2 ASD. We were then able to access early intervention supports through the NDIS.
Norah is just under four years old now and she is growing up as a fun and outspoken child. Just like her dad and myself, she is a very determined person and she knows what she wants. She is bright and very articulate for her age.
During days when her nervous system becomes a bit overwhelmed, her usual response is to scream, hit, kick and bite. Norah often does not wee for a 24-hour period and I think her body does not accurately register and process internal sensations. I am still trying to find a balance between understanding the supports that she needs and supporting her strengths.
In the past, we have tried Occupational Therapy (OT) for Norah, but I find that she was not particularly engaged in this.
Currently, she is thriving with these sets of activities: weekly Equine Therapy (an OT-designed program), fortnightly art therapy, three days per week in a group centre with friends (peers with ASD), one day per week at home with 1:1 support, and a three day weekend bonding with me and her dad.
What are some of the gaps you wish to fill and areas you wish to focus on with Hamers Edge?
There is a large focus on “fixing” a person with autism so that they can operate in the neurotypical world. Most of these interventions are coming from the “outside-in” approach instead of the “inside-out” and I am concerned that this can have a negative impact on certain people’s mental health.
There is not much focus on addressing the person’s central nervous system and getting their body out of fight-flight-freeze mode so that they can engage with the world more naturally. In my experience, the sector and the NDIS do not support participants enough to explore the so-called “alternative” therapies.
What are the services that you provide at Hamers Edge?
We currently provide Level 2 Support Coordination, Level 3 Specialist Support Coordination, and a new program called “The Essence of You.”
Behind the scenes, I am working on an interactive workshop for participants, parents and nominees to learn more about how they can implement and utilise their plans. Watch this space.
What budgets can NDIS participants use to access Hamers Edge’s services?
We currently work under “Capacity Building – Support Coordination” and “Capacity Building – Daily Living.” We work with self and plan-managed participants only at this stage.
What is the “Essence of You” program?
The “Essence of You” is a social work program that has been designed specifically for adolescents and adults with ASD to explore and create their life goals. We assist participants in exploring each domain of their current life.
We look at their past experiences and work based on their core values. We explore the participant’s personality type and then bring everything together to create a better understanding of themselves.
Identifying one’s own strengths, challenges and any factors that impact their life will give the participant an insight into what kind of capacity building supports may be suitable for them.
The “Essence of You” social work program is expected to increase a participant’s self-awareness, emotional literacy and theory of mind. This can assist with building and maintaining relationships, improving challenging relationships, identifying meaningful and sustainable employment, and increasing emotional regulation and self-esteem.
At the end of the program, a participant will have a sound understanding of their intrinsic goals. They will then be supported to create a roadmap of how to achieve their goals with both NDIS-funded supports and therapies together with mainstream and natural supports to live their best life.
To learn more about Hamers Edge and the “Essence of You” program, visit: hamersedge.com.au/the-essence-of-you.