In-demand sports class for kids with disabilities at Taren Point Youth Centre seeks secure home

A popular physical activity class for children with a disability is thriving, but operators say there is greater demand in the community to flourish.

The weekly class, Skillz4me, that runs in a hall at Taren Point Youth Centre has been successful with Sutherland Shire families since the initiative was launched four years ago.

It is a non-profit project that brings free sports sessions for children with disabilties including autism and Down syndrome.

It started as an opportunity bring families together, and combines therapy, sports and fun, with the assistance of social workers and early childhood teachers.

Jason Stanton, who runs the classes with his wife Sarah, says demand is growing, but they feel limited by the space.

"It's been going really well. We've had more than 100 families come through in the past 12 months," he said.

"We have expanded from the initial session of one hour a week to three hours a week.

"But we want a home, a dedicated space. At the moment, we book the hall each week, and it takes time to set up the equipment, and then pack it up."

The former football coach says while the sessions have received some support, the goal is to secure a its own premises.

"There has been some support from the council including a grant, and the Lions Club help us, but we sort of get treated like a club, but we're more a community service that relies on donations," Mr Stanton said.

"We're really appreciative of the help but we haven't been able to break through the barrier of being viewed as a group, yet we are run by volunteers."

He says the unique sessions involved the entire family.

"There isn't really a place like this for families to go. We are all about inclusion, regardless of childrens' challenges," he said.

"Parents and siblings come along - it's for the whole family. It's like not they drop their children off like at daycare - they participate with their kids in the activities.

"We want to expand into different services but we can't do that unless we have more space. Expansion is limited by not having a dedicated venue. We could fill this void and strengthen the community."

Shire mum Gillian McDonnell regularly participates in the classes with her two daughters, ages 11 and four, who are on the autism spectrum.

"It's really great," she said. "My 11-year-old was able to integrate into mainstream sport after two years at Skillz4Me.

"We need a secure venue for our kids but it gets really cold in winter and hot in summer because there are no fans in the hall that we are using at the moment."

A spokeswoman for Sutherland Shire Council says it has supported the program for several years, including rewarding it with a community grant.

"[This] provides 12 months' worth of financial support for venue hire and a significant contribution towards other costs such as therapists and equipment," she said.

"Council very much values the services provided by many wonderful community groups and organisations across Sutherland Shire and we are proud to have been able to assist the Skillz4Me program with its continued success.

"When council facilities become available, we notify interested community groups and encourage them to submit an expression of interest for use of the venue.

"Community organisations are also assisted and encouraged to consider partnering with other like local organisations to explore venue options and opportunities to provide diversified services."

She says the federal government's continued support of the nation-wide NDIS program also offers another means of assistance to families using valued support services provided.

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