Why friends matter: By Timothy Jong

We are very lucky to have had Tim share a number of his published works with us, which we have shared over the previous weeks.

Award winning writer and Yooralla customer Timothy Jong is continuing to develop his writing skills, edging closer to his National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) goal of becoming a professional writer.

Timothy has been supported by staff at the St Albans Community Hub for many years to gain practical writing experience, preparing articles for the Hub’s quarterly newsletter.

We are very lucky to have had Tim share a number of his published works with us, which we have shared over the previous weeks. We hope you enjoyed them!

Tim’s previous published works include:

  • Putting business into show business
  • Using a communication device

You can read Tim’s final installment (for the moment) about the importance of friendship below.

​​​​​​​​​​​​​​Why friends matter?

For a student with a disability, I went from prep to year nine at mainstream schools in Kings Park. I attended Kings Park Primary and then Copperfield College, which were walking distance from each other. But I went to Glenroy Specialist School a few days a week for therapy, going to the mainstream part-time. In the early days, I used to go to special school for three days a week and primary school for the other two days.

The other students who were in my classes at Kings Park accepted I had a disability. I can remember my class who went to Copperfield College, were a friendly class and comfortable with each other. I didn’t mix much with the students who went to the Yooralla school; I was too busy planning what I could say to people, trying to trick them to open the gate to allow me to wander the building!

When I started attending primary school, I couldn’t talk much, clinging on to my integration aide Luisa, feeling safe. After I had lunch, I liked going outside around the school, seeing if I could find any friends. But when I couldn’t find any, I just enjoyed driving around the school.

Sometimes once I had already arrived home from the primary school, I used to go back to the school to see if I could find the computer teacher John Williams, to see if I could borrow computer software or just for a chat. Once I had finished chatting to John, and because I was still close where I use to live in St Albans, I used to enjoy driving around to my friend David's place to play video games.

But I was encouraged by my support aide, who I worked with for five years. She said that I should mix in with other students in the class, doing various activities. She was right! Trying to get me involved and make friends and not to be excluded. Interacting with my early classes and playing games in the classrooms, made me want to catch up with buddies such as Chris and Craig.

I met Chris in grade one, and he was a great friend. The school noticed early on that I got along with him and put me with him every year he was at the school. Chris was an IT nerd and he was trying to help me whenever the computer teacher wasn’t there. Chris also liked to help John the computer teacher, winning him an award at the end of grade six.

Craig came into my class in grade three and he was in my class up to year nine in Copperfield. Craig used to come over to my house; we played PlayStation together, getting to high levels! He loved to play footy, he even played for our school.

Once I left Copperfield, it was sad not being able to be with them, but I could connect with them again on Facebook. Later on, Craig wanted me to visit my old high school friends at the senior campus, but I never got around to it.

To help with my communication issues, the school bought me an old Apple IIe computer to practice typing and to do work. Luisa and I used to type letters to each other on the computer in an old-style cryptic font, trying to work out each other’s messages on what we’ve been doing, enhancing my typing skills.

When I was in grade three, technology advanced and we were introduced to the Internet and Email. I used to email John about I.T. issues, who is still my friend. Email is a way how I can quickly communicate with people or even around the globe. Without people misunderstanding me, when they are face to face trying to have a conversation with me.

After year nine, I moved to the senior campus in Delahey. The work was getting too hard, so my mum decided it was time for me to go to Glenroy full-time. At first, I was angry with my mum’s decision, but later I thought it was the correct call. I wanted to go to the Delahey campus just to be with my aide and friends.

I believe a good friend is someone who has the same interests as you, your friends could even ask you to come along with them to do the same activity. You would know when you made friends with a person, once you feel good and you can trust them. If you are a generous person, you'd return the favour, giving something back to your mate.

Sometimes in life, you make friends when you were in primary school, then drift apart later on. If your friends were close to you, of course you'd want to stay in contact with them, especially if you both are going to different secondary schools. Also if they live too far for you to visit, you will make new friends at high school.

Disability support workers aren't allowed to be participants' friends outside of the disability centre, as the workers are in professional roles. If workers go outside of the professional boundaries and spend time with the clients for leisure, and something goes wrong the company is now liable for any incidents. It also prevents both from feeling emotionally dependent on each other.

But that doesn’t mean the staff have to be miserable. I’m still able to laugh and joke around with staff, talk about what was on TV last night, and how our footy teams did on the weekend.

It’s important to make a broad range of friendships, or professional connections at work. Whether to exchange opinions and hangout together, or someone who can support you. If you want to catch up with your mate, but can’t due to distance or schedule, we are still able to see them, using Facebook or Zoom on iPads or computers whenever we are feeling bored.

Thank-you Tim for your contributions over the previous weeks!

Yooralla has Community Hubs across Victoria, where people with disability can receive the support they require, meet new friends and get out in their local community, all while learning new skills. Read more about them here.

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