Business feature: International Day of People with Disability

Raring to go: Olivia proudly shows off her L plates which she gained with the support of Connexions.

Raring to go: Olivia proudly shows off her L plates which she gained with the support of Connexions.

Taking part in community activities is more than just having fun or learning new skills. It helps build confidence and independence, naturally.

Challenge Community Service’s Grace Folkard, says it’s this aspect that is proving to have the most impact on those who attend Connexions, an activities program for young people under 35 living with lower support needs.

“Connexions is specifically aimed at young adults who are very capable, high functioning, and are looking to become more independent,” Grace said. “Our activities allow clients to spend time with others who require a similar level of support, who are at the same place in life, and may share their interests.”

Just one example of the activities Connexions offers is their popular ‘How to get your L Plates’ training; supporting clients through the process to help them achieve an important milestone, increase their independence, and boost their confidence.

“It’s very confronting when you have to complete a big undertaking like your driver’s licence test,” Grace said. “You have to know how to prepare and what to expect when you go into the RMS and do an unfamiliar test. Having some extra support through that process can be a huge benefit.”

The training is having a positive impact, with four clients already receiving their learner driver licence. One of these is local high school student Olivia, who has attended Connexions for the past three months.

“I recently completed the learner driver’s licence course and hope to do some other activities during the school holidays,” Olivia said. “I wanted to get my licence so I could hang out with my friends and family. Connexions helped me to study and do practice tests.

"I was amazed that I got them first go. I was really proud of myself. I can’t wait to start learning to drive. Connexions helped me reach my goal of getting my L plates. They make learning fun and it’s a good way to meet new people."

They make learning fun and it’s a good way to meet new people.

Connexions also provides fitness activities, cooking lessons and social events. Activities are community-based, rather than in a centre, so clients learn independence and social skills in a casual setting. For information on Connexions programs in Newcastle email Grace grace.folkard@challengecommunity.org.au, visit challengecommunity.org.au/connexions or call 1800 679 129.