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Youngsters with disabilities encouraged to scale sporting success

Cian James

Swansea Bay’s physiotherapy service organised a series of taster sessions for a variety of activities, held across Swansea and Neath Port Talbot.

Amongst the opportunities offered to the youngsters were indoor climbing, paddle boarding, surfing, yoga and an army-style mini assault course.

It is hoped that those who took part will develop a thirst for sport and become more active, ensuring that they benefit physically and emotionally from regular exercise.

Rebecca Kennedy, Strategic Physiotherapy Manager for Primary and Community Physiotherapy Services in Swansea Bay, said: “We organised a number of activities, aimed at encouraging children with disabilities, or children who may not normally access activities, to give them a try in the hope they will be inspired and have the confidence to exercise and to be more active independently.

“We had a great uptake and the feedback so far has been excellent. They have all really enjoyed it and feel so much more confident to try things independently.

“They come in and they are really nervous and worried – we have had a couple who needed to be really coaxed to join in – but it’s lovely to see them once they have warmed up.

“There’s great comradeship, with arms around each other and a helping hand if someone’s a bit stuck.”

As well as improving health and fitness, Rebecca said such activities had additional benefits.

“Not only are they doing more activities, they have also made friends, they are feeling more confident. I think there has been a well-being improvement as well as their fitness and activity levels.”

Those who took part have been shown where to find further opportunities to become more active.

Rebecca said: “We have encouraged them to look into opportunities to continue. Often, they just need to have that confidence to try something, with a little bit of support from us, to be able to continue independently afterwards.

“Disability Sport Wales has an excellent link where you can put in the post code for your particular area and it will signpost you to all the activities which are accessible for people who may have additional needs or a level of disability – so we encourage people to have a look at that as well.

“It doesn’t have to be a sport or exercise, just an activity – our whole ethos is about encouraging people to be more active, and that can be just having a little play in the park or walking to the shop or walking a bit further than you would normally. For children, particularly, it’s about the fun element.

“The message is about being active – it doesn’t have to be about traditional sports and activities.”

The health board is also recruiting a health disability activity practitioner to further encourage youngsters and adults to become more active.

Mark James, father of seven-year-old Kian (pictured above), gave his backing to the scheme.

He said: “It’s important that there are opportunities for all children with disabilities – get them out and getting them to try something, like climbing, that they wouldn’t usually try is great for them.

“This is Kian’s second time indoor climbing and he’s becoming more confident. He’s doing well and he’s enjoying it.

“He was a bit scared of the heights but he’s getting a bit higher each time. Fortunately, his brother came along, and he’s going right to the top, so the competition is pushing him on.

“He also sees other boys with a similar disability doing well, and that encourages him to think, ‘If they can do it, I can do it.’”

Of the session Kian said: “It was good. The instructors help you and I wasn’t scared at all.

“Hopefully I will get all the way to the top one day.”

Charlie Knaggs

Julia Knaggs, mother of nine-year-old Charlie (Pictured above), who managed to climb to the top, said: “I think it’s good for him, mentally, to see that he can do it, and, of course, the activity is good for them physically.

“It’s also about being around other children who have similar physical difficulties. It’s the knowing that there are other children out there.

“He kept going and going – he was determined – and it was good to prove that he could do it. He will be chuffed going away from here.

“As a parent you are always proud to see them do something sporting.”

Charlie added: “I like the climbing part as it’s a lot of fun.

“This is my first time and I made it all the way to the top. I didn’t make it the first time but I tried again because I wanted to do it. I made it on the third time – I achieved. I really enjoyed myself.”

Scaling the heights

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