Updated: Oct 5, 2021
There’s a far more detailed explanation in the book and you have to know a little about me to understand what motivated me to make a change. But largely there were two families and incidents that inspired me to take action. The first was seeing a particular family walk away from the surf club, because only one of their children were able to attend nippers. They had one parent at nippers with one child, while the other parent and child with down syndrome, were down the other end of the beach. Unable to join in and unable to be a part of the fun. It was tearing the family a part on the weekends and so they left the organisation.
The second family I came across while treating as a physio. They were a new young family who had a 5 year old with special needs. They had been struggling to come to terms with everything and made a comment to me that they were completely social isolated within the community. Almost hidden away and despite living walking distance to the surf club and beach. They hadn’t stepped on to the sand since their child was born because they just didn’t know what was going to happen if they did, and whether others would look, stare and judge them.
After seeing and hearing these two stories I just felt compelled to try and do something to make a change. At the very least, start to ask some questions and get a better understanding of what families and parents of children with special needs have to do and are living with every day.
How has the journey been since then?
It’s been a really interesting journey. Because despite being a physio and despite so many believing I have extensive knowledge in special needs and disability, my real job as a physio is in elite sport. Working in the NRL and with swimming Australia, Surf Life Saving Australia and Boxing Australia, so I’ve had to learn and grow as well.
There’s been ups and downs, when we initially started we created a standalone day that was a chance for people with special needs to experience the beach and surf club and while on that initial day there were tears of joy and heaps of pats on the back and local politicians and surf stars in attendance it was then that I looked back on what we’d created and realised we hadn’t made a program I was proud of. We’d created more segregation, holding a special day, at a special time for special needs.
So that night and every night for the next 6 months over winter I re-designed the program to be an inclusive nipper program. One that isn’t special, a program that runs within the standard Nobbys nipper day so that everyone in the local area can come to nippers, reducing that social isolation of living with special needs and helping to educate the community about special needs.