New program offered to Coast schools

Maree Jenner is breaking down barriers about disability among primary school aged children

A new program in primary schools challenging stereotypes about disability will be facilitated on the Coast by Social Futures Local Area Co-ordinator for the NDIS, Maree Jenner, based in Gosford.

The free program, Different on the Outside, Same on the Inside, is aimed at breaking down misconceptions and social barriers as well as encouraging awareness and inclusion for people with a disability.

Following resounding success in the NSW Central West, Social Futures is now looking to roll out the program throughout schools on the Central Coast and calling for expressions of interest.

It is funded through the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) and delivered with local area co-ordination services by the community service organisation, Social Futures, which promotes inclusion, fairness and social justice.

As a person of short stature, Jenner engages young people and speaks to her own experience of difference and the challenges she faced “growing up little” in a world built for average height people.

“I am so passionate about this program because I have a physical disability; I am different,” Jenner said.

“It is such a good opportunity to go in and talk to children because they notice things, they are learning, and the earlier you talk to young people, the better.

“Young people have questions about disability, they are curious about difference.

“They want to know why that is, and to understand.

“Having contact with me and becoming familiar with disability helps to remove awkwardness.

“Through this program we support young people to feel comfortable with difference and open avenues towards understanding and respect.”

Jenner said children with disability, whether physical, developmental, intellectual, emotional or sensory, were at increased risk of being bullied, which could result in poor mental health, anxiety, depression and even suicide.

“Sadly, bullying happens frequently in our country but often it occurs as a result of ignorance and misunderstanding, and this program wants to rectify that,” she said.

President of Central Coast Council of P&Cs, Sharryn Brownlee, said it was wonderful to see the Different on the Outside, Same on the Inside program being offered to Coast schools.

“Sadly, bullying happens and often it is a result of ignorance and misunderstanding,” she said.

“This program is aimed at breaking down prejudices and will educate, inform and help rectify the misconceptions that are out there around disability.

“Through this much needed program, all children will become familiar with disability and that will help them to be more comfortable with difference.

“The program helps fill the gap in schools that has needed NDIS investment and it is very pleasing to see NDIS ensuring Central Coast children now have access.

“We warmly welcome Maree Jenner, the NDIS Social Futures local co-ordinator and hope all Coast primary schools will participate to help reduce the levels of anxiety, depression and bullying,”

Sue Murray