Hi, I’m Kristi

My own learn, connect and thrive journey…

I had dedicated a decent chunk of my adult life (well my 30’s) towards completing a disability-specific tertiary degree. All the while I was raising two teenage boys and working four days a week as a disability support worker and later the coordinator of a day program service for people with disabilities in Bega NSW.

Approaching 40 and the end was in sight. I was exhausted yet hopeful I would be able to put my newfound knowledge of developmental education into action.

kristi sproates at her desk

My husband was my biggest cheerleader and my rock but not everyone I knew ‘had my back’.

 

I heard ‘Why would you bother’? or ‘there will be no jobs for your qualification in Bega’. I wasn’t a settle-down-and-get-married-early girl. I adventured for 5 years after school and then found a happy place and home to raise my babies. I did marry at 35 and was doing my degree at the same time but very happy without the picket fence.

 

‘EYE ON THE PRIZE, KRISTI’ (self-talk)…
I knew that the combination of my degree and accumulated 15 years of support work along with my passion to advocate for and empower people with disabilities to learn and grow would be enacted. I just didn’t have the time or energy to ‘join all the dots’ as yet.

 

WAIT! A letter arrived “you have achieved a high standard overall and you are offered a place in the Honours research program’.

 After some deliberation, I signed up for another two years of new learning. WHY? I wanted to specialise in an area that was innovative, meaningful, useful and was in fact ‘the future’. The abbreviated title: Use of iPads for communication in community settings.

 

So I was then on a new journey, and the saying ‘what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger’ comes to mind. I was the first person to attempt this from interstate and my supervisor was internationally recognised and had a very high standard to say the least. The new learning challenges stacked up and up. Blood, sweat and tears were real. 12-14 hours/day on a computer between working and learning/doing research and I would have starved if it wasn’t for a helpful hubby. Yet, I persisted because I’d not come that far to only come that far.

 

Then, I broke. Snap!

 

I had herniated C4-C5 discs in my neck. Debilitating to say the least. A neck brace, painkillers and time off work/study. Once the pain was under control and time extensions were in place I did recommence this honours journey – and this was just the first year.

Once I got to implement my case study in real-time in our community, I was again empowered and loving the time I spent teaching my participant (who was a twenty-two-year-old man with autism and a non-verbal communicator) new ways of communication. His iPad was customised with words, pictures and voices that were in a context to suit his community outings, and he then used the iPad to ‘voice’ his wants/needs. He showed incredible courage and perseverance to learn new skills. I was on a new high, findings of the research were positive and I went on to write the 20,000 word thesis in the second year.

 

The project in poster format was shown at the AGOSCI Conference, Gold Coast, in 2015. You can download the project in PDF form HERE.

The findings were never going in the drawer. It was unique research as it was in real time and in the community. I considered publishing this thesis as a journal article but that was more time in front of a computer, no thank you. I felt more strongly about getting ‘out into the community and ‘making a difference’.
Kristi sproates at graduation

I graduated as a Developmental Educator from Flinders University with a Bachelor of Disability and Developmental Education with Honours (2015). Soon after, the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) was rolling out in the Bega Valley. The NDIS recognised Developmental Educators as specialist disability providers or Allied Health Professionals.

{Read more about what a Developmental Educator does HERE.}

Appy Connections was founded by me

and I choose to focus on skill development for people with disabilities to use mobile devices with purpose. In real time with real opportunities to learn and grow while increasing communication, interactions and participation. I really believe in equal opportunities, I help people overcome their barriers and believe in themselves to use technology to enable learning and growth. I know now I chose the right specialist area and fearlessly embraced the unknown. I am so super excited and dedicated to this important work.

These days to avoid neck injuries I go for more walks in nature either the beach or the forest where I live and I choose my computer time more wisely.

I also enjoy swimming at the beach,

camping in national parks, growing my own vegies, drinking a red wine, reading books, going to the gym to feel lively and strong and being a good role model for my boys who are now young adults living their own lives.

Before this story started I was also a single mum so I am proud of the journey of working and studying and creating a business. I know they are proud of me too. I’ve had mentors come and go but the three men in my world are my rocks xxx

Thanks for reading this section, it’s a big part of who I am.

I also enjoy swimming at the beach,

camping in national parks, growing my own vegies, drinking a red wine, reading books, going to the gym to feel lively and strong and being a good role model for my boys who are now young adults living their own lives.

Before this story started I was also a single mum so I am proud of the journey of working and studying and creating a business. I know they are proud of me too. I’ve had mentors come and go but the three men in my world are my rocks xxx

Thanks for reading this section, it’s a big part of who I am.

kristi at the beach on the south coast

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Like to visit in person for a chat?

If you’d like to come and see me in person, you’re welcome to visit me in my office at 

1/31 Merimbula Drive, Merimbula 2548