It seemed a natural fit to join two organisations in a project that combined life skills with having fun.
A new inclusive beaches program launched this summer, following a successful trial.
Autism Spectrum Australia (Aspect) is collaborating with Surf Life Saving Australia to provide nippers classes to kids on the autism spectrum.
February 4 marked the official end of the nine-week program at Elouera Surf Life Saving Club, which is one of 13 clubs across NSW and QLD to roll it out this summer.
The initiative aims to make NSW beaches more autism-friendly.
It was developed as part of Surf Life Saving Australia’s commitment to diversity, and will provide specialist training, support and resources for people in the surf lifesaving community with a disability.
Participating clubs will work with Aspect to increase their knowledge of the autism spectrum and develop appropriate resources and practices to help people enjoy the benefits of surf lifesaving.
The Sutherland Shire club welcomed 10 new families into its community.
Club representative Libby O’Sullivan said it was an exciting venture for the club’s Yellow Fins nippers group, who joined in with other mainstream groups on the sand.
“It’s something we have wanted to do for a while, so it was brilliant to see the smiles on childrens’ faces as they took part in beach activities like sprints and relays,” she said.
“We run all the usual nipper activities, with some slight adjustments so that everyone can have a go.
“We also have lots of volunteers and parent helpers, and the whole group has a relaxed and very positive attitude.”
Surf Life Saving’s Melissa King says the project highlights a commitment to enabling all members of the community to participate in surf life saving.
“[It] is providing education and resources for age managers on the nippers program through to our surf lifesavers on patrol to help people with a disability, including those on the autism spectrum, and their families, confidently enjoy the sensory experience that the ocean offers,” she said.
The program was funded by the Information, Linkages and Capacity Building National Readiness Grant.