Pilot project offers inclusive sporting opportunities for children with disabilities

1 May 2019

Some say three’s a crowd, but for the Community Sport for Children with Disabilities Project, three organisations came together, backed by funding through Te Pou o te Whakaaro Nui, to create something great.

Thanks to Hutt Valley District Health Board Child Development Services, Kelly Sports, and some advice and guidance from Sport Wellington, children with identified, diagnosed disabilities recently participated in an eight-week programme to develop their fundamental movement skills in a supportive environment.

The pilot project, which began on February 14, 2019, aims to develop children’s motor skills and fitness, and improve children’s skills and confidence to participate in sport-specific physical activity; with the longer-term goal of reducing the risk of secondary health consequences of physical inactivity.

The project is an extension of work the HVDHB’s Child Development Service are already doing, where they diagnose and assess children and then offer a family workshop that provides education and teaching about learning strategies to support children. The Community Sport for Children with a Disabilities Project offers an additional pathway for these children, providing a supportive and social “real world” environment where they can have fun and make friends, while also developing their fundamental movement skills.

The HVDHB identified many of these children as previously “falling through the cracks” because they struggle to “fit in” and aren’t ready to participate in “club or school” sport.

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Kylee Tustin, physiotherapist at Hutt Hospital Child Development Service, identified that “children with neurological/developmental difficulties often experience difficulties with fundamental movement skills, and have reduced levels of physical activity and increased sedentary time compared with typically developing peers, placing them at even higher risk of the secondary negative consequences of physical inactivity.”

Child Development Services initially approached Sport Wellington, who then connected them with Kelly Sports who are delivering the sessions. In the initial planning discussions, the group identified that opportunities for these children are lacking, as they are not currently catered for by local clubs and Regional Sports Organisations. The goal of this project is to provide equitable opportunities for these children.

10 children attended the first programme, which ran for eight weeks on Thursdays from 4-5pm at the Hutt Indoor Sports Center. Following the final session, children and their parents were surveyed to see if their skills and attitudes to physical activity had changed and to get feedback about how the sessions could be changed to meet family needs.

The project, run over the course of 2019, will allow coaches, therapists, children, and parents to collaborate and to “fine tune” the content and delivery of the sessions in order to end up with an adapted fundamental movement skills program that provides a “bridge” to children engaging with community sport/leisure organisations. The second programme begins on May 7, 2019.

Depending on the success of this pilot, there is the hope that further funding might be secured, to extend the programme beyond 2019. This could also allow the scheme to reach a wider population of children with developmental delays impacting their basic fundamental skills.

For more information contact the Child Development Service at 04-570-9993.

Meet Bella

Bella is 9 and a half. She’s got a big smile, blonde hair, and loves playing on the Jump-O-Rama trampoline. She can do high kicks, twists, and jumps from the high platform.

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Bella will be 10 in June, and although not really liking sports, she enjoyed attending the Community Sport for Children with Disabilities Project on Thursdays.

“A lot of the sporting opportunities are really hard for her because all the kids are so much more advanced than her, so it’s really hard for her to get in,” said Bella’s Mum Susan.

Susan said that Bella has played t-ball and netball in the past, but the older she’s grown, the harder they’ve found it to find inclusive and accessible sporting opportunities for Bella.

“We tried netball…if you can’t catch the ball and you can’t throw it accurately, people stop passing to you,” Susan said.

Bella played t-ball successfully last year as she was granted special permission to play in her younger sister’s team. This year, however, the regulations won’t let her.

“It’s quite awkward as they get older and the gap becomes bigger,” Susan said. “It’s hard to find places that are more accepting … sometimes they get a bit too competitive.”

However, on Thursday afternoons at the Hutt Indoor Sports Centre, Bella was able to learn new skills and do physical activity, without any of these problems.

“What I really like about it is it’s non-competitive,” Susan said. “I think because they’re all learning how to do it, it’s nice. You need the inclusive attitude; they’re all having a go.”

When asked what her favourite part of the programme is, Bella took some time to ponder the question while running off to the Jump-O-Rama trampolines at the end of the session.

She made a special effort to take a break from bouncing to come back, saying she knew her answer now.

“Learning a new sport every time and different activities,” she said.

This one is better than other things because “normally all the other kids would know all the games.”

As she ran back to join the other children on the trampolines Bella yelled “I’m having a great tiiiiiime”.

Check out our information page on Inclusive Sport

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Community Sport for Children with Disabilities Project 1