In summer this year, Tara, who is in her early twenties, moved into her own flat; her friend Tom, whom she’s known for many years, hopes to find his own place soon too. This is a great achievement for these two young adults, because Tara and Tom both have Down syndrome.


About six years ago, they joined the Teenage Independence Program at FRANS. It was the beginning of a transformation for them and their families – and to a degree for pretty much everybody else they knew then and have met since.


Tara and Tom now have the skills necessary to live an independent life. Carefully tailored support with activities and every-day chores in a group environment helped them learn how to deal with domestic routine, like getting ready for school and – later – for work.


They learnt to do the shopping and cook meals, clean the kitchen and bathroom, do the laundry, make their beds, go out to catch a movie and a bite to eat, and to interact with people in the community, just as other people their age do every day.


With other teenagers like them, Tara and Tom learnt most of these things in the context of where the skills are actually needed: out in the community. Whilst they were still at school, they started with more basic things like the use of public transport or the safe use of the internet and social networking and gradually extended these learnings to more complex things like the financial literacy to understand a mobile phone contract or the understanding of the duty of care to enter into a residential lease agreement.


Tara and Tom realised by and by that all it took to build self-esteem was a lot of guts and dedication, and that they really were not that different after all.


“I found out that I am just like all the other girls and that I can do what they do,” said Tara. “To live independently, we need the skills to know how to do things properly.”


To learn how to ‘do things properly’, they both took part in a financial literacy program that was made possible with a grant from the Future2 Foundation of the Australian financial planning profession.


“The independence I learnt from this program is really fun,” Tom said following completion of the course. “I got to learn to actually budget my own money instead of spending it all; because I’m usually a spender and not a saver.”



Tom has also learnt to buy groceries in the right sizes to prepare a meal for himself. He now has the confidence to go out with friends for a curry in his favourite Thai eatery; he knows how to order and pay for his meal, how to behave appropriately, and how to get there and travel home safely at night.


The benefits of these important achievements reach much farther than merely the impact that they have on the private lives of Tom and Tara.


For one, the demand on their parents dropped with the participation of the two teenagers in the program after school. Mum and Dad found they had more time again to dedicate to their other children, to pursue activities and commitments that they had previously had to put aside and to develop their careers and find greater fulfilment in life.


When Tara goes to the gym after work, she is also changing the perception that people have of her. She is just like any other young woman in her twenties. Why would she be any different? Like other young women, she tries to keeps herself in shape; she has an active social life, loves going to the movies or to see bands.


Most students in Tom’s course at University of Sydney had never really met anybody with an intellectual disability. But with the term rolling on fast, with assignments, working groups, and with everything else that fills the life of students, they soon forgot that they used to think they were any different than Tom. Like Tom, their focus is on preparing themselves for a Bachelor of Arts in ancient history.


With such great independence and an ability to live their own, autonomous lives, Tara and Tom have already greatly reduced their reliance on others – including on services and government assistance programs. This is freeing up funding that is needed to support other young people with intellectual disabilities.


In 2011, the Future2 Foundation invited them to speak about their journey to over 1000 financial planners. Their short presentation “opened up a new world”, said Steven Helmich, Future2 Chair.


Their story is also an inspiration for parents who might have just learnt that their child was born with an intellectual disability. Their independent lives in their own place, with an interesting job in a government agency for Tara, and a university degree in reach for Tom, is a slap in the face of those who focus on their disability, instead of simply seeing two young adults with aspirations and an unwavering determination to reach high and fulfil their dreams.



For 30 years, FRANS has been supporting people with disabilities to find greater inclusion and involvement in the community, gain independence and live active, fulfilled lives. We achieve this through quality, person-focused and inclusive respite and recreation programs that meet the needs of individuals and improve the lives of people with disabilities, their families and carers. We work with people with mild to moderate intellectual, cognitive or developmental disabilities, as well as people with highly complex, composite care needs, through social, group support programs, individualised, direct care, lifestyle and daily living skills training, transitional living programs and carer support forums.


Organisation Details
113-119 Edwin St North Croydon NSW 2132
Contact details: 

+61 2 9797 5315