Gympie's Joanne starts New Year with a big resolution

For some a New Year’s resolution may be to detox for a month, join a gym or save for a holiday.

For Joanne Cooper, 34, of Gympie, her goal for 2011 is to learn ways of communicating with her family and friends.

Joanne, who has a disability which affects her communications skills, is supported by Endeavour Foundation’s Learning and Lifestyle in Gympie.

The service provides tailor-designed opportunities for people with a disability to enhance their independence, confidence, community involvement and life choices. People using the service have a personal plan focussed on their whole-of-life needs.

The service also offers casual attendance for people who wish to develop their learning through structured learning modules.

This year Joanne has set herself a challenge to learn six to 10 Makaton signs, which will empower her to communicate with her family, peers and staff.

Joanne is non-verbal so she relies on other forms of communication.

Keysign/Makaton is a simplified sign language that is readily understood by people with an intellectual disability.

Last year Endeavour Foundation staff supported Joanne to learn Makaton, and she has already mastered the sign for “thank you”.

Apart from the Makaton signs she has learnt, Joanne communicates using general hand gestures, which can make it difficult for her to be understood by others, which in turn can be frustrating for Joanne.

“Learning Makaton will have a huge impact on Joanne’s life,” said Fiona Pocknee, the Resource and Development Officer at Endeavour Foundation’s Learning and Lifestyle in Gympie.

“Joanne’s current methods of communicating are not effective for her in all circumstances. Makaton will enable her to converse with her family, peers and staff. It will have a tremendous impact on her quality of life.

“In the long term it will also impact on Joanne’s health and safety. For example, she will be able to tell her doctor if she’s in pain and if so, where it hurts. Even being able to ask for help if she needs it – these are things she currently can’t do without support.”     

Joanne’s is just one of many courageous New Year’s resolutions held by people with a disability in Gympie, and one which Endeavour Foundation staff strive to support her to achieve.

Endeavour Foundation has been supporting people with a disability since 1951 and Joanne Cooper embodies Endeavour’s goal to lead great change in public perceptions of disability.

The organisation started as a school started by a passionate group of parents who refused to accept that their children with a disability could not be educated.

“The new year gives us an opportunity to commemorate change in public opinion, acceptance and the fading of stigmas attached to disability and to set new goals and ambitions for 2011,” said Endeavour Foundation CEO David Barbagallo.

“With the support of the entire community we are hoping to promote further change and awareness of people with a disability throughout our 60th anniversary this year, and hopefully celebrate the introduction of a National Disability Insurance Scheme.”

Endeavour Foundation offers employment, specialised training, accommodation, education and lifestyle opportunities to more than 3,350 people with a disability throughout Queensland and Sydney, including Gympie.