16.08.19

Travelling with a Complex Disability and a Positive Mindset

Tristan at the Colosseum 2019. All Rights Reserved. Hearth Support Services.
Tristan at the Colosseum 2019. Hearth Support Services. All Rights Reserved.

A Positive Attitude and Mindset Goes a Long Way

Overseas travel can be daunting. Particularly if you aren’t a frequent jet setter. More so, if you are travelling with a child with a complex disability. In early June, my wife and I took our son, Tristan, to Europe. Tristan has Cerebral Palsy and I knew that if anything interfered with my ability to provide Tristan support, we would not be in a good place. I was nearing the end of an anticipated work week and my lower back twinged the day we were leaving. 

Fortunately, our planning paid off and we took a great deal of time to ensure we took the right amount of luggage. Incontinence aids took up half a suitcase and we had to estimate the number of incontinence aids required for a 17-hour plane trip. Tristan requires fully modified food so we pre-prepared all of his meals and snacks, closely following any onboard food restrictions. We knew an indirect flight would cause stress, so we opted to fly directly from Perth to London. 

We pre-arranged our transport connections and notified each hotel manager to clear any valuable equipment from each of Tristan’s rooms. We knew from previous experience, that any hotel fittings could be damaged, plus the ramifications of a hefty checkout fee. We needed to ensure all screws and wheels on Tristan’s wheelchair and walker were secure and that his equipment could not be damaged on the cobblestone streets. 

Tristan in Wheelchair. Europe Transport 2019.
Tristan’s at the Airport 2019. Hearth Support Services. All Rights Reserved.

As you can imagine, Italy is not the easiest place to travel when supporting a child in a wheelchair. Particularly, when moving from the Pantheon to the Arch of Constantine or hiking up the Colosseum in Rome. The stairs are often too steep and narrow to implement any kind of disability access. In Sicily, the streets are so narrow that you can’t fit a scooter and wheelchair on the road at the same time. Despite some age-old limitations, the Italians made it work. Their positivity and love of people made the greatest difference during some difficult times. This positive mentality was living proof that one can overcome anything with the right mindset. 

At the airports in Sicily and Rome, two assistants supported Tristan instead of one which made a huge difference. They were interested in Tristan, had a pleasant and friendly manner, and provided us with the utmost care and support. Such goodwill and the overall experience in Italy caused me to reflect on what we do at Hearth and the importance we place on relationships. 

Managing a successful business in the disability sector means placing people at the forefront of everything we do. It’s about matching Participants and Support Workers with mutual mindsets and attitudes and ensuring Participants feel empowered with choice and maximum independence. Much can be overcome when we work together and have the right attitude and mindset.

While we planned most of our trip, we found that some of the most important decisions were made on the spot and it was peoples’ attitudes that helped us get there. An ability to think quickly in high-pressure situations is one of the key qualities we look for when hiring Hearth Support Workers. It’s a valuable skill they can use throughout their lives.