For over 20 years, Elaine has been working in schools as a school services officer (SSO) and loving working with kids to help them reach their potential. As her symptoms have progressed over years living with secondary progressive MS, working has become more and more uncomfortable but she is determined to stay at work in the job she enjoys.
After doing some voluntary work at her daughter’s school, Elaine found out about a short course she could do to make working in schools a career. Since then, she has bounced around schools all over Adelaide working as a SSO in primary and secondary schools, but has been in her current role for about nine years.
Working with kids with special needs, Elaine says she can really relate to the kids and uses her own limitations to make them feel more comfortable about their issues.
“Once I’m in the classroom I’m just happy. I had a kid the other day who was too scared to go into the classroom and hadn’t been at school much. And I just told him, it’s not because of my age that I have to use a scooter or the walker, I’ve got really wobbly legs. I get really embarrassed too,” Elaine says.
In the summer heat, Elaine notices her legs get worse and finds she is more prone to falls. She also lives with numbness in her feet and hands.
Elaine says she knew she desperately needed help after a fall in 2015 that broke her foot. She had to go back to work with a boot on, and couldn’t use crutches due to her balance issues. She reached out to the MS Society who provided her with a wheelchair for home and put her in touch with the employment services team at Multiple Solutions.
Employment support staff organised a lightweight walker for Elaine, which she could easily lift in and out of the car. They then came out to her workplace, to see what else they could do to make work more comfortable.
Elaine now has access to an electronic scooter for work, special chairs and back supports. Three automatic sliding doors were installed in the main office for easy access when Elaine is using her scooter or walker, and handrails in the bathrooms.
Elaine also lives with major bladder and bowel issues, which can be difficult to manage in between classes. She asked Multiple Solutions for help with negotiating her hours down to two days a week, and to move her workspace closer to the bathrooms.
Now with some changes and modifications to her working conditions, Elaine is finding it much easier to manage her MS symptoms at work and can focus on doing what she loves, helping her students.
“We’re doing long multiplication and division… One student the other day said to the teacher, ‘Mrs Jones has explained it all, I know how to do it now.’ That made me feel really good. The kids make it,” Elaine says.
Do you need help managing your symptoms at work like Elaine, or help staying in your current job? Contact Multiple Solutions on 1800 053 154.