A MOTHER has successfully launched workshops which look to increase understanding and awareness of children with disabilities.

Gemma Cardona and her son Paddy, who is non-verbal and has epilepsy and cerebral palsy, spent last week meeting around 350 children at Burton Primary School.

Across the sessions Gemma encouraged the pupils to improve their knowledge on disabilities and to see that Paddy is just like any 11-year-old boy who wants to have fun.

Working in partnership with the Dorset Children's Foundation (DCF), Gemma is hoping to carry out the Paddy's Purpose workshops in more schools across the county after a successful first week in Burton.

Throughout their time with Gemma and Paddy children were taught about range of aspects regarding disabilities, including how to use sign language and understand how Paddy expresses his emotions through his body language.

"The workshops started by getting the children to see Paddy for what he is - an 11-year-old boy who is very similar to them," Gemma said.

"The most important thing for me is for children to see beyond his wheelchair.

"It has had a massive impact and I have been inundated with messages from parents speaking so positively about the sessions.

"It is a real life lesson I hope children will take what they have learnt with them throughout their lives. Children want to be able to understand.

"It is a free service and we encourage the children to have fun."

Gemma first spoke to children about Paddy's disabilities a couple of years ago at a local Beaver group.

After visiting other troops and receiving positive feedback, she was contacted by DCF about delivering the sessions in schools.

Several months of planning and discussions with a lot of schools took place before visiting Burton Primary and Gemma is now hoping more schools will take up the offer of the workshops.

The educational work Gemma is doing comes from her own experiences of seeing children react to Paddy and she it keen to change the way people respond to those with disabilities.

"I have always felt that children look at Paddy and are scared of him. Some people cower away from him," Gemma added.

"He is a big boy and makes a lot of noise so if you are little it could be scary if you don't understand.

"The last thing I want is people to be scared of him. I have always thought it would be amazing to get into schools and raise awareness."