Interchange Loddon Mallee Region will launch two innovative programs this month to support Mildura’s special needs families in navigating the disability sector and connecting with other people on similar journeys.

Starting this month, there is a new playgroup for families with preschool-aged children who have a disability or are undergoing a disability diagnosis.

The fortnightly playgroup is a supportive space for parents to feel understood, unwind and talk about their experiences. Families will also have access to information and resources through the group facilitator and a range of local child, disability, and health experts.

Interchange’s HACC and Volunteer Coordinator, Tara Coppola, said the playgroup filled a need for peer-to-peer support for young families living in Mildura and the Mallee region.

“Recognising that your child has a disability and getting a diagnosis can be an emotional roller-coaster,” Ms Coppola said.

“Families often report feeling lost and alone but connecting with other families through peer support groups can help parents and carers feel more confident, capable and less isolated.
“It’s a world away from appointments and therapy; our community facilitators create a safe, fun environment for children to play while their parents take a much-needed break with new friends.”

Support isn’t just limited to families with babies and preschool children. Interchange also has plans to launch a social program for kids and teens who have a family member living with a disability.

Ms Coppola said when it comes to support services, siblings are often overlooked.

“Many siblings have close relationships with their brothers and sisters, but they can also experience significant stress, both within and outside the family,” she said.

“The issues that siblings experience, such as caring responsibilities, grief, guilt and jealousy, can be complex and difficult for others to recognise or understand.
“At the same time, their parents may be too stretched emotionally and practically to recognise their needs or can’t find appropriate support services in their region.”

Interchange’s sibling social groups will give children and teenagers the chance to hang out with people their age going through similar challenges once a month and make friends who understand.

It’s also a chance to be the centre of attention and have a fun night out without their sibling.

Registrations for both programs are now open to families living in Mildura and the surrounding region.

Each program costs $4.50 per hour or $3 per hour for families with a concession card.

For more information contact Tara Coppola on 03 4418 2150 or tara.coppola@interchangelm.org.au.