Covering the Goulburn and Murray valleys

Wear orange for One and All

Ben O’Dea will happily blend in with a sea of students, schools and businesses dressed in orange today as part of Wear Orange for One and All day.

RENEE THOMPSON May 9, 2014 3:00am

Jamison McFadden, Ben O'Dea and Lauren O'Dea.

Ben O’Dea will happily blend in with a sea of students, schools and businesses dressed in orange today as part of Wear Orange for One and All day.

Blending in, in a more general sense, is something the seven-year-old, who has Down syndrome, and his family are grateful to the One and All Campaspe Inclusion Project for.

The program works with schools and the community to get people to see past disability and accept people for who they are.

It has changed the life of each member of the O’Dea familyespecially the relationship between Ben and his older sister, Lauren.

Ben’s mum, Prue, said one of her concerns had always been that Lauren would get bullied or teased at her school for having a brother with a disability.

She said the project’s co-ordinator Jacqui Davies’ work with One and All had done a lot to alleviate her concern this would happen.

‘‘Lauren’s class at Moama Grammar has taken part in dancing classes at the Echuca Specialist School,’’ she said.

‘‘Ben’s class has attended Moama Grammar for Christmas craft and on Friday they will take part in sport activities at Moama Grammar as part of Wear Orange for One and All.’’

She said such interactions had resulted in ‘‘really positive feedback’’ so far from parents of Lauren’s classmates.

‘‘Being exposed to kids with disabilities has started discussions at home with other siblings and family members,’’ she said.

Ben’s father David said one Moama Grammar student had even stood up in front of the Echcua Specialist School council to tell them what it meant to him to have the inclusion day and meet kids from the specialist school.

Mr O’Dea said it was thanks to the hard work of people like Miss Davies that such a turnaround in attitudes toward disability was possible.

‘‘The schoolyard’s different from what it was like in my school days,’’ he said.

‘‘It’s because of things like Jacqui’s program that that is the case.

‘‘It’s a great relief to families like mine.’’

Mrs O’Dea said having a child with a disability made her realise how narrow-minded some of the attitudes towards disability could be.

‘‘I want my kids and their friends to grow up experiencing the benefits, blessings and rewards of knowing someone with a disabilityof not being scared and intimidated,’’ she said.

‘‘The One and All Program allows this to happen.’’

Renee Thompson

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