Disability worker and mother of Ashton Hayes, 12, Angela Mathew has launched a new
Disability worker and mother of Ashton Hayes, 12, Angela Mathew has launched a new "world first" service aimed at providing an authentic sleepover experience for kids and young people with disabilities. Francis Witsenhuysen

Mum launches 'world first' service for kids with disability

A GOONELLABAH mother has opened her heart and home to disabled youth and children by launching a new service that allows them to experience something they may not have had, a sleepover.

Thanks to Angela Mathew's new Goonellabah service Just Like Home, children and youth with disabilities can now experience one of life's quintessential experiences, a sleepover at a friend's place.

Just Like Home is a completely disability accessible overnight accommodation service, specifically for children and young people living in or visiting the Rainbow Region.

Angela is a Local Access and Inclusion Practitioner and has worked in the disability sector for more than 10 years, in addition to raising a child with disabilities.

"My home is the first in the world to offer a completely accessible space for young people to stay in a home with another family as part of their care, support and growth."

Angela's 12-year-old son Ashton Hayes was the second in the world to be diagnosed with the genetic condition Atypical Rett Syndrome. Despite being caused by a gene mutation, Rett syndrome is rarely inherited.

The idea for Just Like Home began with Ashton, who is in a wheel chair.

"A night at home with our family is fun - making music, kitchen dance parties, gardening, watching movies - but Ashton's missed out on the slumber party and sleepover experience with his friends due to housing accessibility... I thought, there must be lots of young people out there with disability also missing out and who'd like to join in a typical sleepover at our place," Angela said.

"Often someone with a disability has such a planned life, it's so routine orientated... this experience is just being and immersing yourself in a different environment and learning what comes from that."

Angela's home is completely wheelchair accessible in order to accommodate Ashton's needs and now the downstairs granny flat is set up to let children and young people with a variety of accessibility and support needs experience something most families take for granted.

"It's really important that young people get to experience a variety of families as they grow up," she said.

She said the service was about fostering a genuine exchange of human connection, not just providing a place to sleep, but a place to play, have fun and be real.

"The moments you can't schedule or write into a support plan, those are the golden ones, and that's why we do it," she said. 

With future plans to extend the service to cater for more numbers, Angela said she had hand picked other support workers to help her run Feels Like Home.

It can be accessed via NDIS funding or out-of-pocket payments and it is available to book seven days a week for up to two weeks at a time.

The service can currently cater for up to four people at a time, including siblings so parents can have a real break.

For more information or to make a booking head to www.justlikehome.com.au


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