Breaking Down Barriers for Kids with a Disability

Posted on 03 December 2015 by Audrey Schueren

Profile view of a girl outside blowing bubbles.

International Day of People with Disability is held on 3 December each year. It aims to increase understanding and acceptance of people with disability, and provides information on how individuals and organisations can get involved to break down barriers. The theme for this year is Inclusion Matters: access and empowerment for people of all abilities.

Inclusion is at the heart of MacKillop's Alternate Recreation Choices (ARC) program. ARC works to assist children with a disability, who have complex care needs (either high medical and/or behaviours of concern), to access mainstream out-of-school hours services including before school, after school and vacation care programs.

Eleven-year-old Laura* and her mother Gina* have been clients of our ARC program for several years. Laura has been diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder and epilepsy. She regularly exhibits concerning behaviour, including biting, kicking, hitting and a lack of awareness around hazardous situations.

Gina, a single mum with eight other children (including another son with disabilities), had repeatedly and unsuccessfully tried to enrol Laura into a number of holiday programs. She found it incredibly frustrating and was concerned that Laura was being discriminated against because of her special needs.

MacKillop’s staff advocated for Laura and secured her a placement at a local primary school holiday program. Our team developed a comprehensive disability awareness plan for the workers caring for Laura on the holiday program, including strategies to reduce the possibility of Laura exhibiting behaviours of concern. They particularly emphasised the importance of consistency in Laura’s care, and enforcing acceptable rules and guidelines.

The plan has been extremely positive for Laura and her mum, as well as the school staff, who have gained new skills to support more children with disabilities in the future, while the school staff and Gina have both reported that Laura thoroughly enjoyed her time at the school holiday program.

*Names have been changed and a model image used to protect privacy.

Find out more about MacKillop’s Disability Services.