Social Futures is challenging stereotypes about disability in Central Coast schools. ‘Different on the Outside, Same on the Inside’ is a free program for primary school aged children aimed at breaking down misconceptions and social barriers and encouraging awareness and inclusion for people with disability.
This program is facilitated by Social Futures Local Area Coordinator for the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS), Maree Jenner.
As a person of short stature or dwarfism, Maree engages young people and speaks to her own experience of difference and the challenges faced by “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,” Maree 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 toward understanding and respect,” Maree said.
Children with disability, whether physical, developmental, intellectual, emotional, or sensory, are at increased risk of being bullied, which can result in poor mental health, anxiety, depression and even suicide.
“Sadly, bullying happens frequently in our country. But bullying occurs often as a result of ignorance and misunderstanding, and this program wants to rectify that,” Maree said.
Maree is supported in this by Sam Millard, National President of Short Statured People of Australia.
“The work that Social Futures will be doing through this program will give Short Statured people of all ages a greater opportunity to participate freely in the community without feelings of isolation and angst that a lack of understanding can cause. We also hope that the focus on school-aged children will allow us to continue to tackle the complex issue of bullying together as an organisation and as a community,” Mr Millard said.
If your Central Coast primary school is interested in participating in the Different on the Outside, Same on the Inside Program, contact Social Futures on 1800 522 679.
This program is funded through the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) and delivered by Social Futures. Social Futures delivers Local Area Coordination services for the NDIS across more than half of NSW, including the Central Coast.