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Supporting your kids to play sport

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Being active is a major part of our health and wellbeing and it plays a vital role in supporting the development of kids

However, it can be more challenging for kids living with disability, meaning they are often less likely to engage in physical activity.

According to Paralympics Australia, almost 20 per cent of Australians live with disability, but only 1 in 6 participate in sport. This can often impact the physical, mental and social wellbeing of individuals.

The Australian Health Organisation recommends that kids living with disability should do at least an average of 60 minutes a day of moderate – to vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activity. (Health.gov.au) Playing sport is not only a great way for kids to stay active but they can also make new friends, have fun, and engage in their community, all whilst benefiting their physical and mental health!

75 per cent of Australians who live with disability want to take part in sport but feel there are limited opportunities. The main barrier for the low engagement in sport is the lack of accessible and inclusive facilities and organisations. In this blog, we will provide some tips on how you can support your kids to get into sport and explore some disability organisations that may be suitable for your kids.

Why your kids should consider playing a sport

Playing sport comes with many benefits that can be physical or psychological, and it can also lead to the developement of important life skills.

The physical benefits of playing sport include improving strength, mobility, and cardiovascular fitness. Developing these areas is important for kids overall health and wellbeing. Being active from a young age can reduce the risk of underlying health conditions.

According to Paralympics Australia, adults with a disability are nine times more likely to report both cardiovascular diseases and diabetes than those adults who are not living with disability. Staying active through sport may maintain or even improve blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar levels.

Playing sport can develop important life skills including socialisation, providing kids with the opportunity to make friends with others in a similar situation and creating a positive social network. Sport teaches kids how to cooperate with team members, as well as listening to others and following directions. They will learn how to work in a team, and come to decisions as a group, encouraging them to consider the opinion of others. It teaches them habits such as following rules which can be applied to other areas of their life.

Physical activity has been shown to stimulate brain chemicals that make you feel better. Therefore, playing sport regularly can improve emotional wellbeing, and create positive mental health benefits. Sport can teach kids to develop strategies to cope with the highs and lows of life, through experiencing winning and losing in games.

Research shows a link between playing sport and self-esteem in kids. Sport can teach kids to learn to control their emotions and stay emotionally healthy. Playing sport can also educate kids around overcoming disappointment, and coping with unpleasant experiences, which is important to becoming resilient. They can develop confidence with the support of their team and a supportive coach.

Tips for parents to support their kids starting sport

As parents, you play a crucial role in supporting your kids to play a sport. It is important that you provide support to make it as fun and enjoyable for them as possible.

Some ways you can do this is by practicing basic sporting skills, such as throwing a ball together. You may also encourage your kids to build interest by exploring different sport options. We recommend asking your kid to choose which sport they would like to play and encourage them to have a go at anything to be active.

To explore whether a sport is suitable for your kid, you can discuss this with their therapist team. Any sport can be modified, and specific skill development can be worked on during therapy. Once your kid starts a sport, we encourage you to show your support by attending their sporting games and training practices and celebrating them giving it a go and having fun.

Tips to support your kid as they are starting out in sport!

Strengths and limitations

Focus on your kid’s strengths and consider sports with adaptations to accommodate their physical capacities to leverage these. Talk to your kid’s therapist on possible barriers of sports related to their disability. They may require a block of therapy to work on a specific sports related skill. For example, wheelchair sports require good upper body strength. Your physiotherapist or exercise physiologist can assist to work on these skills.

Review eligibility criteria

Make sure to do your research and be aware of the eligibility criteria for participation in particular sports. Eligibility criteria may vary across different sporting organisations and the sport.

Involve your Health care team

It is important to discuss your kid’s sporting aspirations with people in their healthcare team. Before starting a sport, you may need to consult a medical professional and obtain a Medical Clearance to safely participate.

You should consider whether your kid’s disability, matches the level of support needed. This is a crucial factor that may influence whether your kid sticks to the selected sport. We recommend speaking with people in your kid’s therapy team – including occupational therapists, exercise physiologists or physiotherapists to determine the type and amount of activity appropriate for them to explore sporting options that might be suitable. Your kid’s therapy team can assess risks and guide you and your kid to choose a sport they can enjoy and safely participate in – there may even be some sports that you are not aware of!

Exercise physiologists and physiotherapists are able to screen for high-risk health conditions and refer your kid to a doctor prior to engagement in sport if required. They can work with your kid to increase motivation and pathways for participation, by recommending specific skills and exercises based on the sport. A physiotherapist or occupational therapist can also provide support through modification of the sport to your kid’s needs/ skills.

Organising sports

So my kid wants to play a sport, where do we go from here?

The first step towards getting your kids involved in sport is to select a sporting organisation. Many sporting organisations in South Australia provide modified versions of sports in their junior program, making sport more inclusive, safe and fun for younger players, including those living with disability.

To view the list of sporting organisations in South Australia, you can visit the Office for Recreation, Sport and Racing. https://www.orsr.sa.gov.au/get-active/find-a-sportrecreation-organisation

There are a range of sports that are accessible and can be tailored to your kids needs so that they can safely participate. Some sports have para sporting pathways which include: Athletics South Australia, Swimming South Australia, South Australian National Football League (SANFL), Basketball South Australia.

Below are some sporting organisations that provide information and sporting pathways for people living with disability:

School Sport SA – School Sport SA is the entry level for anyone wanting to pursue sport. They have a great variety of events and programs for students with disability. These include both State Championship events (athletics and swimming) and participation type events (boccia, all abilities sport days). They have a list of sports here: https://www.education.sa.gov.au/schools-and-educators/programs-students/school-sport-sa/competitions/students-disability-events

Paralympics Australia – Paralympics Australia help Australians living with disability participate in sport and compete at the Paralympic Games. They also support participants to try para sports through their multi-sport days. For more information on Paralympic sports and eligibility visit https://www.paralympic.org.au/

Special Olympics Australia – Special Olympics give all people living with an intellectual disability the opportunity to play sport their way, on their terms. Sport options available include athletics, basketball, bowling, netball, soccer and swimming. For more information visit https://www.specialolympics.com.au/sa

Need support with getting your child into a team sport?

At Novita, we offer a specialised ‘linkup’ service called ConnectABILITY, that does all the hard work for you – connecting people living with disability with recreation, sport or performing arts.

ConnectABILITY covers the following:

• Assessments conducted by Novita’s Recreation Officers who provide kids and families with the latest recreation information tailored to individual interests and the practical needs of the family
• Support to families to link into a recreation, sporting or performing arts program
• Promotion of inclusive ‘come and try’ activities to see what activity is most suitable for your kid.

Did you know that Novita clients are eligible and can register for ConnectABILITY? If you are not registered as a Novita client, please call 1300 668 482 or email [email protected]. Payment can be made through your NDIS plan.

Find out more about Connectability