Life in a rural town had been carefully contained for Jessica Charlton. Growing up with a vision impairment called Ocular cutaneous albinism, resulting in reduced vision and paler skin, she had great support from her family in Mount Gambier.
But taking the leap to obtain qualification as an occupational therapist meant a daunting transition to Flinders University, tasting city life away from her familiar circle of support.
Jessica says she was fortunate to receive the support she needed over five years to flourish in her studies. Having completed her Bachelor of Health Sciences and Master of Occupational Therapy, Jessica is now employed as an Occupational Therapist with Motivate Kids, an Adelaide-based private paediatric development specialist.
As a foundation to her success, she reflects on her Flinders placement coordinator being able to link clinical placements to her specific areas of interest, being children with vision impairments, paediatrics and rehabilitation. A placement was even organised in Mount Gambier, enabling valuable reconnection time for Jessica with her family.
“Going back to my hometown exposed me to what it’s like working as a health professional in a close-knit community,” says Jessica. “It laid out a pathway for my professional future.”
As she flourished during her studies, Jessica became more engaged at Flinders. She was elected as Allied Health President during her final year of study for the Flinders University Rural Health Society, while she completed two degrees. But beyond her academic accomplishments, Jessica also gained confidence and independence.
“I have just moved 500km from home, I live independently, have completed a five-year degree and I am working full time,” she says. “It’s a bigger change than I thought possible.”
Jessica is now keen to work more with children with vision impairments. “I would love to expand on a project I completed in my final year of study that includes research about the effectiveness of early intervention for children with vision impairments.”