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The Aussie goalball athlete achieving her goals with the support of NextSense

With NextSense support, Aussie goalball athlete, Caitlin, achieved her goal to complete NAPLAN in braille. She now has her mind set on new goals—attending university and competing in the Paralympics.
A photo of Caitlin with short hair smiling. She is wearing slightly tinted glasses and a black shirt with the text 'WA Goalball Western Australia' written on it in yellow. She is standing outside, with a bush behind her.

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When Australian Junior Goalball athlete Caitlin began receiving support through NextSense, her goal was to complete her Grade 9 NAPLAN assessment in braille.

With the support of her NextSense educator, Caitlin quickly developed her skills and not only achieved this goal, but now completes almost all her classes in braille. Now in grade 12, Caitlin has her mind set on two new ambitions—attending university and competing in the Paralympics.

Gaining greater independence through NextSense

Caitlin lives in Western Australia with her parents and twin sister. She is legally blind, and after finding it challenging to access braille and assistive technology lessons in her local area, Caitlin and her family reached out to NextSense, which brings an expert team to you via video conferencing or telepractice, anywhere in Australia.

This support can be tailored to the unique needs of individuals like Caitlin and can include support for both hearing and vision loss.

After finding NextSense, Caitlin was put in touch with NextSense Special Educator, Kristen Hill. Kristen met with Caitlin via video call to help her develop an understanding of braille.

‘Kristen was amazing—her lessons were really good. She sent me all these materials. I got packages and packages of braille. And we played games to learn the contractions. It is actually really fun,' says Caitlin.

In 2018, Caitlin attended the three-week NextSense braille camp in Sydney. Supported by Hyundai Help For Kids, the camp creates a fun social environment for young people and their families from around Australia to learn new skills, build confidence and have fun.

‘My favorite part was meeting the other people. I got so much better at my reading too.’

After months of lessons and hard work, Caitlin’s hard work paid off—she was able to complete her Grade 9 NAPLAN test independently in braille. And she is now able to work independently in the classroom using her new skills.

‘We now have an embosser at school, so I get my lessons and PowerPoints translated into braille. I can now just follow along with the teacher—so I just look like any other kid at school. I can do my work independently instead of having someone read it all out next to me. I feel more independent.’

Caitlin also loves reading, so to support her passion for reading, NextSense has gradually sent her a collection of books our team translated into braille since she became a client.

With the end of her high school years fast approaching, Caitlin is eager to go out and discover the world. Excitingly, she has received an unconditional early offer from Murdoch University to study a double degree in Sports Psychology and Sport Sciences. She is confident that the skills in braille and assistive technology she has developed with the help of NextSense will enable her to access the materials she needs to start her higher education.

Caitlin’s goalball dream

Caitlin began playing goalball in 2017 after trying the sport at a camp for young people with vision loss.

‘I was like “omg this is so fun”. It was such a novelty at the time—we were sitting on mats on the ground throwing balls at each other and I just thought “I can't believe this exists!” '

Goalball is a fantastic way for all young people, but in particular those with vision loss, to develop their special awareness, communication skills, social confidence, and gain the mental health benefits that come with team sport.

A natural at the sport and determined athlete, Caitlin quickly developed her skills and went from playing casually to competing in representative teams. Thanks to her hard work, and the support of her family and team, Caitlin competed in her first national competition in 2018.

She is now part of the Australian youth goalball team, and recently flew to Sydney to attend a weeklong training camp with players in the Australian boys and girl’s teams.

NextSense was thrilled support our Australian goalball teams by offering up our specialist accommodation for their use while training in Sydney. All up, 12 athletes, coaches, support staff, and two guide dogs stayed in our accommodation for the training camp.

Ryan Honschooten, co-founder of Goalball Western Australia, President of Goalball Australia, and Caitlin’s state coach says that she is a very confident, tough athlete and one of his star centres.

‘She is driving the sport and encouraging new players to come through our doors. It is all fantastic. I really do believe that Caitlin has the passion to make the Australian women’s team, the Aussie Belles'

— Ryan says.

Caitlin hopes to one day follow in the footsteps of the Aussie Belles, who competed at the Tokyo Paralympics last year, by competing for her country.

We look forward to watching her compete and represent the sport in future Paralympic Games.

If you are interested in playing goalball, visit the Australian Goalball site here, explore the Goalball Western Australia page, or visit Blind Sports WA.

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