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 “Children with disabilities are just like all children and they should not be defined by their disability,” said Andrea Hoisl, director of the Diocesan Office of Faith Events (OFE) in discussing a disabilities awareness presentation her office is offering to students in diocesan elementary schools and parish catechetical programs.

The presentation, called “Just Like You,” is part of the One Heart Ministry, a disability outreach program sponsored by the Office of Faith Events. “In our culture today, raising awareness about the different types of disabilities people have is more important than ever,” Hoisl said. “We want to help our youth appreciate that just because someone may have a visible physical or mental disability, they are no different than anybody else. This presentation emphasizes what we have in common, rather than focusing on our differences.” Those commonalities, she said, are our Godgiven talents and gifts that we need to share with others.

Hoisl hopes children attending “Just Like You,” will become more accepting of the differences of people who are disabled and model ways to help others with mental or physical disabilities. Each presentation is 45-60 minutes and can be geared toward small classroom or larger school settings. It will feature a talk by Ian Coyne, who has had a physical disability since birth and has spent most of his life making adaptations to accommodate it. Coyne is a 2016 graduate of Xavier High School in Middletown and is currently a sophomore at Central Connecticut State University in New Britain, pursuing a career path in disability awareness.

“I want to help young people gain an understanding of what it is like to have a disability and a greater appreciation for people with them and how they affect their lives,” Coyne said. “I hope sharing my struggles will help them see that people with disabilities can still go out and lead productive lives,” Coyne said. He is inspired to share his story with young children in the hope that they will never let anything in life stop them from reaching their dreams and goals. “Nothing can stop you from doing the things you want to do, but you.” he added.

Hoisl praised Coyne for his passion for this ministry. “Ian is a great role model for all children,” she said. “His determination and positive attitude are qualities all our children need to be successful in life. He is not defined by his disability; he is defined by his gifts and talents given to him by God.” The “Just Like You” presentations will also include a hands-on activity for children that will simulate what it is like to have a physical disability. All participants will also receive a key chain made by members of the One Heart Ministry. Hoisl hopes children will put the key chains on their backpacks as a sign of support for people with disabilities. Schools and parishes interested in offering the “Just Like You” presentation to their students should contact Andrea Hoisl at the OFE, 860-848-2237, ext. 312.

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