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New service provides connections for disabled

A new NDIS-inspired service is launching in Newcastle this month, which will allow young people living with disability to connect with each other and gain valuable skills.

Meet Matt. He is just like any other 20-year-old: working, volunteering, studying and socialising. However, due to his learning difficulties, Matt requires a bit more support to achieve his goals than others his age.

Matt has a very busy and fulfilling life, and the support provided by Challenge Disability Services has allowed him to gain valuable experience in his areas of interest. With the launch of the new Challenge Disability Services Connexions program in Newcastle this month, more young active adults living with a disability who have low support needs, like Matt, will have the same opportunity.

Despite his learning difficulties, Matt is a conscientious worker with a special knack with children. He volunteers as a teacher’s aide and fortnightly he cleans windows for businesses. Matt started washing windows for a local hairdresser, and now he services an additional four businesses.

“I am a teacher’s aide at the local primary school,” Matt said.

“I help any of the students, from Kindergarten to Year 6, that are having difficulties. I enjoy assisting them with their maths and art.”

Matt, who joined Challenge two and a half years ago, regularly works with support worker Claudette.

“I also knew Matt before I started working at Challenge and he has always been a wonderful person,” Claudette said.

“Matt provides a great example for others; he is a very upbeat, positive, helpful, respectful and wonderful participant!”

With Challenge’s support, Matt was also given the opportunity to volunteer for his local PCYC’s Vacation Care for primary school children during the school holidays.

“I have also completed a TAFE course, Certificate IV in Interactive Digital Media, and learned about animation, cartoons, and editing,” he said.

Challenge Connexions can also support participants towards obtaining a driver’s licence. Matt recently passed his Provisional Licence test and is working towards buying himself a car, with his mum’s help. According to Claudette, this has been great for Matt’s confidence.

“It is pretty good to have my P’s, but I am also a bit scared,” Matt said.

“I have already driven by myself a few times. Mum helped with the test questions, but Kasey from Challenge helped me book my test for my P plates.”

Connexion’s life skills activities provide participants with the tools they need in their day-to-day life and include lessons in cooking, shopping, and gardening. Classes are available in computer literacy and job applications as well as the Business Club to provide hands-on experience in business basics to prepare participants for the workforce.

There’s also ample opportunity to socialise, with sporting teams, bushwalking, art and even take a class to improve social skills all on the agenda. Matt spends time in the gym on Mondays and group activities on Thursdays including trampolining, learning how to cook and playing basketball.

“My favourite activity so far was our excursion to the Irukandji Shark & Ray Centre at Port Stephens, it was interesting and I learnt new things,” Matt said.

“I liked going to school, but I prefer the time I spend at Challenge Disability Services. I really enjoy my time and the staff are all really nice. I have made quite a few new friends, and I have recommended Challenge’s services to my friends.”

Claudette is currently studying for her Certificate IV in Disability, and loves working with people and supporting Challenge Disability Services participants.

“Challenge is a positive wonderful and supportive place to work,” she said.

The support provided to Matt will now be available more people in the community with the launch of Challenge Disability Services Connexions in Newcastle. The program is eligible for NDIS funding and is available to local residents living with a disability, aged 18 to 35, who have low support requirements.

Challenge Connexions provides participants with the opportunity to spend time with people their own age while taking part in a range of skill-building and social activities. For more information on Challenge Disability Services  and the launch of the Connexions program in Newcastle on Wednesday 24th May 2017, please email, visit or call Grace on 0407 367 434.

Article from Newcastle Herald, 12 May 2017.

Author: Katrina Warmoll

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