Crystel Dix is the Clinical Director for Autism Adelaide, with teaching and personal experience she is passionate about disability supports.
Where it all started
From the early age of four, she knew she wanted to be a teacher like her mother. Crystel was inspired by her mothers’ passion and enthusiasm to nurture children and watch them grow, wanting nothing more than to do the same. While completing her Bachelor of Education she worked part-time as a team leader at a busy child-care centre at the Royal Adelaide Hospital, caring for 12 toddlers at a time. The old saying ‘patience is a virtue’ was never more literal!
From there, she began her exciting journey into teaching. Crystel elected to work in disadvantaged schools and taught for several years before starting her own family. And when the time came, it began a whole new adventure – not one she envisioned or expected. Especially when her son Lachie was diagnosed with Autism a few years later.
A personal journey with disability
Between the ages of two and five, Lachie’s daily meltdowns were extremely hard to manage and left Crystel heartbroken and distressed. Knowing the pain and turmoil Lachie was experiencing as he screamed, cried, bit and scratched himself and Crystel, was devastating. Each night Crystel agonized over how and what she could do to help make a better life for him.
Everything was hard, attending outings, family holidays, and trips to the supermarket! Forever nervous and on edge, awaiting the next meltdown or fearing that he would smack another child in the face. Knowing that he did not understand it was not okay to hit other people. It certainly provided some awkward moments in play cafes (to say the least)! Aside from that, Crystel felt the constant judgment from many, who believed Lachie was ‘just misbehaving’ left her feeling frustrated and isolated.
Working intensely with Lachie by herself, Crystel slowly began to build his skills and develop his self-regulation. It gave a deep insight and understanding into Autism, and what it was like to raise a child with a disability. Extremely difficult without support is how Crystel reflects on that period and acknowledges that it is still hard even with a supportive network.
Lachie is now 10, his meltdowns and behaviours have significantly reduced. There is still a long way to go and new challenges to face. Every day both Lachie and Crystel learn more together and become stronger together.
Developing a career
During this busy time of raising a child with Autism, Crystel continued with her teaching, had a second child and then returned to full time teaching again. This time, at a Special School in a class with very complex and challenging behaviours.
Crystel had made it her mission to instill in others to see the children they were working with not as challenging behaviours they presented with, but as beautiful and unique individuals. She inspired and encouraged others to help share and develop the exceptional skills and talents each child possessed. And so, it became a passion and formed an intricate part of her teaching journey.
When Crystel wasn’t working or looking after her children, she avidly tried to learn and discover more about Autism.
Her newfound knowledge, combined with her lived experience and practical experience as an early childhood teacher has taken Crystel in a new direction. Like a duck to water, Crystel has accepted a new role as a Behaviour Support Practitioner where she works individually with clients and their families/care teams to provide support around skill development and challenging behaviours. Behaviour Support is a role Crystel is relishing, her passion to mentor and change one’s life is a high priority to her.
Vision moving forward
Crystels’ goals are to continue to support individuals with disabilities because she empathizes deeply with the difficulties they face. Crystel understands there is a need for parents to access more supportive care because of her own journey and watching Lachie struggle daily with his challenges.
Her ultimate goal is to help families, as well as care organisations, receive the assistance they need to support the people whom they care. She understands just how vital that support is and how difficult it is without it.
Concentrating on care and supports, Crystel’s intends to reshape the level of care and supports provided to people with disabilities across Australia. With this as a primary focus, it will mean a better quality of life and outcome for anyone who has a disability.