With a passion for dance and a smile that lights up the room, Dakota Burke is one determined 9-year-old.

Thanks to support from Logan-based allied health professionals, including an occupational therapist, a psychologist, and a speech therapist, all funded through the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS), Dakota now reads at a level more in line with her age.

“Last year I couldn’t read and this year I can properly read a book,” said Dakota.

“I got a ‘c’ on my maths test. I was very proud of myself.”

Being diagnosed with level three autism at the age of 8 came as an eye-opener to mum Steph Clarke, who says she felt useless watching her daughter struggle at school and in social settings.

Aspiring Dancer Dakota Burke
Aspiring Dancer Dakota Burke

“Dakota found making friends difficult and it made her time in school hard and had an impact on her personally,” Steph said.

Facing difficulties with everyday routines and dealing with frequent school suspensions, Dakota saw a paediatrician who diagnosed her with autism. They then suggested applying for the NDIS through Carers Queensland, the NDIS partner in the community for the Logan region.

Steph praised the NDIS for giving Dakota the opportunity to achieve her goals, because the family would never have been able to do it financially.

“It’s going to give Dakota the skills to be such a beautiful member of society later on down the track and give so much back to the community because she has these skills,” Steph said.

Dakota is also supported through the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Community Health Service’s (ATISCHS) Logan Medical Clinic.

The non-profit community-owned health care and human services organisation delivers on the unique health and wellbeing needs of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in Logan.


“It’s been really good for Dakota to get supports that are tailored to her needs,” Steph said.

After discovering the joy of reading, Dakota is once again rekindling her passion for dance after a short break, using it to balance the mental and physical aspects of her condition and help make her “feel happy.”

Dakota has been ballroom dancing for five years at the Queensland Academy of Ballroom Dancing in Ipswich, owned and directed by Linette McFarlene.

Dakota and her dance partner hold the Australian title across New Vogue, Standard and Latin American styles for her age group.

“It was through those community connections, a social dance for people who live with disabilities, that Dakota and her dance partner found each other and went on to become the best of friends,” Steph said.

Other supports such as council’s Active and Healthy Living Guide, have been a stepping stone to finding other interests Dakota has outside of school and dance.

Aspiring Dancer Dakota Burke
Aspiring Dancer Dakota Burke

“We’ve tried a few different activities and found that yoga calmed Dakota down before going to bed, so it was worth going to that 5:00pm session for the hour,” Steph said.

Without the support from the ATISCHS and other local supports, Steph says she doesn’t know where her family would be.

“The connections within the community that we have made, ranging from free community supports to NDIS-funded therapies, have played a significant role in helping Dakota reach her goals,” Steph said.

“We have met with some autism groups on Facebook that have given Dakota the chance to make friends with like-minded people.”

Steph said it’s important for families with disability to identify what they want the end goals to look like when plan setting so they’re getting the right supports.

“We were blessed with our first plan meeting because we had the information and knew what we wanted to achieve and were able to go,” Steph said.

Aspiring Dancer Dakota Burke
Aspiring Dancer Dakota Burke

“Our local area coordinator in Logan supported us in that they listened to what we had to say which meant we got the best out of our plan.

“Being heard with clear goals and the right supporting evidence meant that we were able to focus on the supports that we needed and everything almost to the ‘t’.

“Thanks to free community supports in and around Logan and funded NDIS supports, Dakota has been able to hit her goals and is now expanding and adding more goals.” 

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