Graduates leading the way with research projects

Mar 26, 2024


Rocky Bay is empowering the newest minds in the industry to champion research projects aimed at enhancing neurodiverse affirming practices.  

A checklist for setting neurodiverse affirming goals and a resource to support mental health practices in neurodiverse customer are now being utilised by therapists at Rocky Bay thanks to the initiative.  

As part of the New Graduate Pathway, last year’s Rocky Bay graduates Ellen Clemenston, Estelle Burke and Michaela Watkins spent dedicated time throughout the year to create projects benefitting customers and staff. 

Estelle and Michaela, recent graduates from Rocky Bay, embarked on a journey of discovery as they delved into the realm of neurodiverse affirming approaches.  

“We had just finished university and when we came to Rocky Bay we had never even heard of neurodiverse affirming approach,” shared Estelle.  

“Rocky Bay introduced it to us, from the start we had to do a lot of research to figure that out. From that, we got more of an understanding.” 

Their project, a neurodiverse affirming checklist, aimed at reshaping traditional social goals into more inclusive and supportive objectives.  

Michaela explained, “A lot of the old social goals were not neurodiverse affirming, e.g., you have to make eye contact with someone, make friends, which would have made people with autism more uncomfortable and decreasing their mental health.  

With guidance from their supervisor and input from Rocky Bay’s neurodiverse committee, Estelle and Michaela meticulously developed the checklist, ensuring it was user-friendly and inclusive.  

“Our supervisor helped us develop the questions, ensure the language was neurodiverse affirming, and we finalised the questions and we tweaked them into categories,” Estelle noted. 

“The whole point is for therapists to be neurodiverse affirming,” Michaela emphasised.  

Meanwhile, Ellen Clemenston, another graduate, focused her project on supporting mental health in neurodivergent populations.  

Her initiative resulted in the creation of a comprehensive booklet aimed at educating clinicians and empowering them to better understand and support the mental health needs of neurodivergent individuals. 

“I just want to educate and empower clinical therapists to be able to feel confident enough to support their customers’ mental health, to be able to actually understand more what their experiences entail and be able to show that empathy,” Ellen shared. 

“This tool will benefit our customers so we’re actually providing tailored therapy that suits them, we can’t expect an approach that has been based on people with neurotypical brains to then suit a person who has a neurodivergent brain,” Ellen said. 

“So the fact we can tailor the way we approach things and the way we support to person’s actual need and their neuro type will greatly benefit them,” Ellen concluded.  

The New Graduate Pathway at Rocky Bay equips graduates with practical skills but also fosters a culture of innovation and inclusivity within the disability service sector.  

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