When Mason Wilson walks through the door to start work at Jett’s Gym in Ballina he gives his colleagues a high-five, does a double bicep flex, then reaches out for a fist pump. It's how the 22-year-old, who has autism, starts his day.
With his NDIS goal to get big muscles, Mason initially started working out at the gym with an exercise physiologist before being employed there.
Noticing Mason’s enthusiasm and dedication to his workout regime staff soon embraced the young gun, praising him for his efforts and taking him under their wing.
Then when Mason’s parents, Jenny and Gil approached gym owner, Kallum Fidoe, to see if his son could do some paid work there cleaning down gym equipment it was a yes from him.
Kallum said Mason has been working with at the gym for just over a year now. He has never taken a sick day and hiring him regardless of his disability has really worked out.
“We’ve seen Mason grow and blossom and he loves interacting with staff and members so when Jenny and Gil said Mason was looking for work, I thought why not, I’ll give him a go.
“I knew Mason was methodical with his workouts. You give him a list of exercises to do, and he won’t miss one. I thought if he’s like that with his workouts he would be like at any job too. I was right and it’s been awesome having him part of our team.
Kasia Sztymelska, Mason’s Busy Ability Employment Support Planner, has also played a significant role in Mason’s paid employment success too.
Kallum said Kasia has just been amazing. She checks in regularly with him, Mason, Jenny and Gil to discuss Mason’s progress and updates them all on anything they need to know.
“When Mason started Kasia put picture aids up around the gym for him to follow and then we created a list with some pictures on it and got him to dot each task when he finished.
“Kasia also shadowed Mason for his first few shifts until he felt confident doing the job on his own,” Kallum said.“While Mason’s communication skills aren’t the best, he is bright and he does understand.
“You may have to show him a few times but once he gets it, he doesn’t forget it. He’s just so methodical. He doesn’t miss a thing on his list.
“If a member is on a piece of equipment he needs to clean, they know to move because that machine is next on Mason’s list and it needs to be cleaned,” Kallum added with a laugh.
“Our members are fine with it. They enjoy having Mason around. They chat to him and think it’s great he’s working with us. They can see he loves what he’s doing, and he does a great job.”
Kallum said through the gym Mason is also enjoying greater community inclusion.
“He’s met the local Dragon Boat group and now he’s started rowing with them,” he said.
“That’s what’s so amazing about the NDIS, participants can come into the gym and then they start networking with other members. Then they go off and join other community clubs associated with us. It’s just been fantastic.”
Given Mason has worked out well, Kallum said he would like to see more employers hiring more people with disability.
“When it all boils down it’s about their ability to do the job not their disability,” he said.