Learning what it means to be a young carer in Wollongong

21st May, 2021   |    By Claire -Heywire   |    3 min read

Written by Heywire winner Claire Williams, Wollongong, NSW – you can also listen to this story at Heywire.

I first met Kate in kindergarten.

We were the social outcasts, she in a wheelchair with cerebral palsy and I had undiagnosed asperger’s syndrome and savant syndrome.

What’s savant syndrome?

Think Dustin Hoffman in the film Rain Man – super smart and a bit awkward at socialising.

I didn’t speak a word until I was nine years old and Kate couldn’t control her body, so in a sense she was the voice and I was the muscle.

Kate is the sister I never had.

We were inseparable and often I was her only form of mobility.

I spent my school lunchtimes pushing her wheelchair around, waiting for her to go to the bathroom so we could return to class together and making sure that she joined in on class discussions.

Every lesson, every lunchtime and every weekend we would stick together.

Kate is my best friend but when I am with her I am constantly exhausted; caring for another person is hard work!

To this day I haven’t forgiven the school system that forced that responsibility on me.

I was a child with a disability who was almost entirely responsible for another disabled child.

At the end of Year 11, I gained employment as a tutor, helping young carers succeed in their education.

My disability makes it hard to have face-to-face contact with people but I have a fantastic memory for retaining knowledge.

It wasn’t until I started working with these kids that I realised my role as Kate’s friend fit the role that these kids were playing as careers – helping another person with eating, medication, mobility, cleaning up, changing their clothes, moving them into a more comfortable position, and just watching out for them and making sure that they are safe.

Most of these kids don’t even know what being a kid is about, as they have played the role of an adult for so long.

Imagine getting out of bed, having a shower, getting dressed, eating breakfast and leaving for school, then imagine doing it all over again – for someone else. Imagine how exhausted you would be at the end of the day when you had done everything twice.

Recently I attended a leadership program for young carers, and I’m making it my mission to help as many young carers as possible receive the support that is available.

Being a young carer is hard but it can be a positive experience.

I should know, I’ve been a carer my entire life!

Also check the related topics:  

Young carers

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