Wednesday, 19 September 2012
“What do you want to be when you grow up?” This is the question we should be asking children and young people with disabilities, according to ECU’s Three Minute Thesis (3MT) competition winner Kitty-Rose Foley.
Ms Foley had just three minutes to explain the focus of her PhD research project, entitled Transition from school to adulthood for young adults with Down syndrome.
She is investigating how young people with disabilities, specifically intellectual disabilities, transition from school to adulthood.
She found that the decisions about their future are often made for them by others, irrespective of their individual abilities, interests and capabilities.
Using Isabelle, a young woman who has Down Syndrome, as an example, Ms Foley explained the importance of open employment and how by working for two days per week in a delicatessen, this young women has a vastly improved quality of life.
“Isabelle loves her job. She gets so much satisfaction from it and her wellbeing has improved considerably,” Ms Foley said.
“She feels valued; she is making a contribution and nothing is contrived. She is really benefitting from the opportunities that open employment has to offer.”
In her presentation, using just one slide, Ms Foley explained that even with the introduction of the Disabilities Act in 1986 there has been little improvement for young people with intellectual disabilities.
Yet there has been a marked improvement with those who have physical conditions.
Ms Foley ended her presentation with the question: why are young people with Down syndrome being left out of the workforce?
“This is a question that we need to answer and address. There is a real need for change; an intellectual disability does not mean that a person should be excluded from the workforce,” Ms Foley said.
Ms Foley won $2,000 cash as well as an all expenses paid trip to the University of Queensland to compete in the national 3MT competition on 11 October 2012.
“Competing in the 3MT was such a wonderful and eye-opening experience and winning was totally unexpected, given the calibre of the performances in the final,” said Ms Foley.
“It was a great challenge to explain my research in three minutes. It’s a lot harder than it seems. I enjoyed learning about the breadth of research being undertaken at ECU and I’m very much looking forward to the national finals at UQ.”
Ms Foley will continue to work on her PhD while based at the Telethon Institute for Child Health Research. She also works part-time as a paediatric occupational therapist.
1st place: Kitty-Rose Foley - School of Exercise and Health Science
2nd place: Anna Urbanowica - School of Exercise and Health Science
3rd place: Gemma Foxall – School of Education
People’s choice award: Phillip Everall - WAAPA