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Woman with Down syndrome in dance costume, hands in air, smiling

Letting go and living life to the full

At the age of 30, Haylee, bursting with her usual bubbly energy, announced to her parents, “It’s my turn now please.” Seeing her two sisters and brother grow up and move out of home, she was itching to do the same. Having Down syndrome was not an obstacle as far as Haylee was concerned. Being loving parents, only wanting the best for their daughter, her parents did have some reservations. But Haylee was determined to stand on her own two feet and live as an independent woman. Seven years down the track Haylee has proven it was a great decision. After two years of searching, her parents found and purchased a safe, comfortable townhouse for Haylee to move into. While she pays her mum and dad rent to cover their loan, they insist it will always be Haylee’s home. She lives there on her own, and very independently we might add, with support workers who assist with meal planning, prep and social outings.

Woman with Down syndrome sitting in recliner chair, smiling

“I wanted to do things by myself without any help or anyone around me,” says Haylee.

“She didn’t want anyone in with her.  She wanted to be fully independent,” explains Marilyn, Haylee’s mum.

“It was a bit scary seeing her move out, but I knew I had to let her go because I won’t be here forever. You ask anyone who has a child with a disability and they’ll say they just want them settled before they depart.  That’s their main worry.”

On the first night Marilyn says she was “beside herself”, but Haylee was cool as a cucumber nudging her out the door so she could go through her lock up routine, just the way she’d been taught by her parents.  Marilyn may have had a sleepless night, but Haylee phoned home the next morning happy as Larry, ready to head off to her job at Kmart which she’s had for over 20 years.  

“Mum was nervous, but I wasn’t. I felt fantastic!” beams Haylee. 

Thriving in her own space

When Haylee moved in, she didn’t waste any time making the place her own.  First thing was to transform the second bedroom into her home-gym, complete with treadmill and her favourite equipment.  She also saved and bought all her own household items – real adulting stuff.  With a mum and dad making a few contributions.  Channeling her domestic goddess, Haylee likes to keep on top of home duties, and finds her trusty whiteboard a good way to tick off jobs as she goes. She doesn’t think of them as chores, because she loves her home so much, and she enjoys a clean and tidy environment.  

“I like to write down my jobs and tick them off as I go along.  I learnt how to do this at home so I could show mum I could do it.” 

Woman with Down syndrome writing chores on a whiteboard   Haylee’s also a bit of a master chef, and her freezer is always well stocked with yummy meals ready to impress family and friends when they drop by. 

“Haylee’s support worker comes over and she and Haylee sit down and look at recipes to plan a menu.  Then they go shopping to buy the ingredients and come back to cook up a storm,” says Marilyn.

“I love cooking stir-fries.  And I really like Italian, especially anything with pasta and tuna.’  

Learning curves

While there were a few teething incidents such as lost keys, or getting accidently locked out, Marilyn was impressed with Haylee’s transition from leaving the nest. 

“She made a few mistakes along the way, but she corrected the mistakes and learned from them.” 

Kind, supportive neighbours have also been a blessing to Haylee and given Marilyn peace of mind.  Marilyn also admits they’re joined at the hip digitally, sharing each other’s location through Find My Friends, which is a handy tool and top tip to other parents out there.  

“When she gets home from work she face-times me to let me know, we have a chat and catch up on what’s happened in our day.” 

Woman with Down syndrome, wearing a dance costume, being hugged by her mother.

🎵All the women, who independent… 🎵

Living as an independent woman, Haylee works several jobs and relies on public transport to get herself to and from her employment.  There have been occasions where new bus routes and timetables have thrown her for a minute, but her determination never fails.  She works it out and moves forward with confidence.  

“On one occasion she phoned me and said ‘mum the bus is gone, but I’m getting on this bus’.  She worked it out herself.  She just amazes me sometimes.”   

Heylee’s work keeps her busy and continues to build her capacity and autonomy.  And she’s always looking for new opportunities to learn more skills. Recently Haylee started a new award wage paid job with a local florist where she helps arrange flowers and delivers them to the clients with her support worker. Haylee’s dream is to work in an office someday.    Woman with Down syndrome holding a bunch of flowers

I’d love to work in an officeI love everything about it. The computers, the phones, filing and getting dressed up to go to work,” says Haylee.  

Woman with Down syndrome sitting at desk, wearing a face mask, preparing mail.

But it’s not all work and no play

Apart from sweating it out in her gym, Haylee also dances up a storm with Xtreme Stars, a local dance group for young dance enthusiasts.  They perform around the town and word of mouth has them picking up dance gigs left, right and centre.  This has been amazing for her confidence, social skills and overall health.  

“I like all sorts of dancing and singing.  My group has performed “All that Jazz” and Abba and they were fun.” 

Haylee also plays in the Wizards Ten-pin bowling league Saturday mornings, and regularly travels interstate for competitions.  

“Travelling for my bowling league has been awesome!” 

Woman with Down syndrome holding up medal she won for ten-pin bowling   Since moving into her own place, Haylee has become very independent in her local area and at home, and while she will continue to need basic support, she has developed an understanding of her limits and will ask for assistance when required.  An admirable quality for someone so self-assured.   While Haylee has been blossoming, the straight-talker has this to say about her mum, “She needs to stop worrying about me to be honest.  Mum still needs to learn and build her capacity to let go more”.    With a cheeky grin Haylee adds, “I feel really happy to be in my own home.  The best thing is being here on my own with no parents around.”  You can’t help but smile at Haylee’s boldness for life.  She wakes up every day and lives it to the fullest. Independently, her way.   If you would like information on how your adult child could live more independently with the right supports in place, you can phone 1300 986 970 or email [email protected].   

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