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The Dorset Children’s Foundation is on a quest to promote exclusivity, break down barriers and to celebrate differences. Where better to start than by teaching the youth of today for a more inclusive tomorrow.

Here at the DCF we believe that the children we support should be heard as well as seen. As a growing charity with a wealth of local knowledge and expertise we are fast becoming a very well-respected organisation that understands the needs of disabled children in Dorset. As such we are often asked to speak on the behalf of our families on topics such as – local parks and leisure facilities, housing needs, SEN provision, palliative care procedures.

We work closely with the local council, NHS and local schools to ensure that the needs of our children aren’t forgotten when it comes to making important decisions within our community.

Disability, Awareness & Education

We support Paddy’s Purpose, Awesome Archie On Tour and are active members of The Disabled Children’s Partnership.

Paddy’s Purpose is a fun, interactive disability workshop created by Gemma Cardona, mum of Paddy. This was set up as she wanted children like Paddy to be accepted, not feared and to challenge how the world sees disability.

Through interactive workshops Gemma and Paddy worked with children of all ages, using fun props, Paddy’s equipment and Peg Fed Ted to give the children an understanding of what life is like for a disabled child. The children often entered the room nervous and a little scared of meeting Paddy for the first time, but would leave bubbling with excitement with a new understanding that, despite Paddy’s different appearance, Paddy is very much like them, he just does things a little bit differently. To date these workshops have been delivered to over 3000 school children, featured on South Today and been a top trending article on the BBC.

What We’re Doing Now

Paddy’s health needs have changed so Gemma and Paddy are unable to deliver full workshops right now, however, there is still so much to do to change society’s perception and attitude towards people with disabilities. Through national, local and social media; pressure and focus groups and working with local councils and NHS Trusts, Gemma continues to raise awareness and help others by sharing Paddy’s story. Her current project will take her work into local hospitals, as we recognise that a stay in hospital can be quite upsetting for some children and this is the one place where children of all abilities and needs share the same wards. Gemma will be working with the NHS education teams, encouraging them to talk to all children in their care about disability, with the idea of providing a more rounded view and understanding of disability.

Sibling support

Gemma is offering to work with individual families who have children with disabilities and their siblings, who may benefit from a child friendly explanation of epilepsy, tube feeds, mobility equipment, and other relevant subjects. Having a brother or sister with medical needs can be unsettling for young children who often don’t have the opportunity to talk about it and won’t ask the questions that are on their mind for fear of upsetting anyone. Using fun props like plasma balls to explain seizures and ‘peg fed Ted’, Gemma can work with siblings to help them better understand what is going on around them.

Get in touch.
If you would like to arrange for Gemma to work with your family, please get in touch with her directly.

When I started working in schools, the first school I visited was the school that Patrick’s younger sister Daisy attended. When I got around to working with her class, I was really surprised that Daisy was asking as many questions about her brother as everyone else. I quickly realised that although Daisy lived with Patrick and saw daily all his equipment and was used to him have seizures, I had never really taken the time to explain everything to her in a way she could process and understand. I took for granted that she had a good understanding of everything, but she clearly didn’t.  –  Gemma

Having a disabled child can happen to anyone. I had no experience and no idea about the world of disability. I assumed that if you had disabilities the NHS/government would just provide. I gave annually to charity and got on with my quite mundane life, blissfully unaware of the massive shortfall in resources, equipment and facilities that people living with disabilities have to face.

Everything is a battle, and I am now a warrior fighting alongside the very best to bring equality and inclusion for everybody.

Gemma

Paddy and Gemma came to visit our local scout group to teach the Beavers what it’s like living with a disability. Gemma was able to explain special needs to the children in such a creative way, keeping them engaged and learning throughout. The children looked beyond the disabilities and tough challenges that Paddy may have ahead, and looked at him as a child to play with and learn from. Having visits from children like Paddy and dedicated parents like Gemma enables the children to enrich their awareness of social diversity and inclusion.

Thank you so much to you both, for inspiring us all.

Alice at Somerford

Gemma and Paddy have paid a few visits to our Beaver Scout group over the last few years and the kids loved them! Kids always have questions about people like Paddy but they are often silenced by their parents out of embarrassment. Gemma encourages all questions and gives honest answers. It’s a wonderful opportunity for others to learn about Paddy’s way of life and also to appreciate that whilst he is different and has his own challenges, he is a lot like them in many ways.

Iain Hunter – Mudeford Beavers

Awesome Archie on Tour

Mum of Archie, Rebecca, attended one of Paddy’s Purpose workshops several years ago and was inspired to set up Awesome Archie on Tour with her 13 year old son Archie, explaining what it is like to live with autism. They are touring schools across Dorset promoting neurodiversity in the main-stream environment.
They have also written 3 amazing books that promote neurodiversity in a fun, visual and accessible format.

If you would like Awesome Archie to visit your school, or to learn more please contact Rebecca at clappcott@thedcf.org/

The Disabled Children's Partnership

We are proud to be a member of The Disabled Children’s Partnership. This is a coalition of more than 90 organisations campaigning for improved health and social care for disabled children, young people and their families. The DCP provide a platform for their voices, and challenge the injustices that affect them.

Raising awareness
The Disabled Children’s Partnership wants to open the eyes of the public and improve the understanding of the challenges faced by families on a day-to-day basis.

Improving understanding
We want to remove the barriers to people being able to relate to the lives of disabled children, creating greater understanding, affinity and empathy for them and their families.

Campaigning for change
We need to do this because without awareness and understanding, we cannot achieve real change. But, with increased awareness and public support we can make a real difference and provide disabled children, young people and their families access to the services they are entitled to, when they need them.

Our Trustee Dan McEvoy, father of Elisa who is profoundly disabled, is a very active member of this group and is frequently the voice of disabled children by addressing Parliament and being interviewed by national media.

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