Getting back into the swing after rehabilitation

jaime-gardnerIntensive rehabilitation is a vital step towards recovery for people with an acquired brain injury (ABI), but it also takes them out of circulation – their normal social routines and contacts tend to fall by the wayside.

For the past 13 years, the Disability and Inclusion Unit at Flinders University has run a Community Re-entry Program (CRP) that aims to reintegrate people with ABI back into their communities. The program recently completed a Service Excellence Framework, renewing the CRP’s government accreditation and funding.

The program’s manager, Ms Jaime Gardner [pictured], said that people with ABI – whether they have had motor vehicle accidents, have been assaulted or have had a stroke – often lose their social contacts and networks while they are in rehab.

“What we try to do is to help people build their skills, become part of a community here and then move back into the wider community, whether it’s through volunteering, recreation, employment or whatever interests them,” she said.

Development workshops that focus on physical skills and movement alternate with creative-based activities, such as writing, drama, painting and craft, and promote skill development in areas such as computing, sport and active recreations, healthy eating, employment and volunteering opportunities. A program of social activities is also included.

Students in placements from Flinders degree courses in Disability and Community Rehabilitation, Behavioural Science and Health Science and from Masters programs in related areas frequently assist in organising and running activities to gain experience, with other volunteers coming from TAFE certificate courses in disability services or rehabilitation.

The program offers places for about 40 adults with brain injury at any one time, catering to people with moderate to severe brain injuries, and a range of disabilities from the primarily physical to memory loss and other intellectual deficits.

Acquiring useful skills – social, recreational or vocational – is at the heart of the program, Ms Gardner said.

“It’s about people having purposeful things to do with their day that they find rewarding, and that leads them into an involvement that reduces their risk of depression, anxiety and mental illness,” she said.

Participation of student volunteers from any part of the University is welcome.

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