Recently I was feeling a bit overwhelmed. It’s wonderful to have NDIS funding for BJ to try new activities but research takes so much time. I’m determined BJ should have the opportunity to try new activities and lead a varied and full life but there isn’t a central place to find the information. My lovely friend, who is an occupational therapist and knows BJ well, swooped in to the rescue and has put some considerable time into looking at sporting and recreational activities for adults with a disability in the hope of finding new activities to add to BJ’s schedule. It’s a time consuming process and although it’s easy to find a range of weekend and after school activities for school aged children, it’s harder to find activities for adults with a disability.
So over to Sue!
During a usual week, BJ alternates between attending a day program, and having one-on-one with a support worker. When he has one-on-one time, it is an opportunity for BJ to explore activities specific to his interests and therapy goals. The benefits include providing BJ with variety, and also allows flexibility for drop off and pick-up times and locations. This helps to tie in with the family’s ever-changing routines.
Julie set me the task of investigating programs available within Sydney which would be suitable for a 22 year old who is social and likes to be active. The hope was that BJ could have a list of regular programs he could attend with his support worker, along with options for once-off excursions. After several hours of researching, it became apparent to Julie and me that this is no easy feat. We discovered that many programs are geared towards early intervention, children under the age of 18, or towards the elderly population. We also realised that there’s no central website with the bulk of the information we required. Once we discovered an activity program or organisation that sounded relevant, the program details were not often available, or required Julie to have a meeting to organise an individual plan for BJ.
As a result, we felt many others would be in the same position, and could benefit from the research we have done. Our desire is that the list of details below could be added to by our wonderful Have Wheelchair Will Travel community based on their own experiences. We hope this will be a helpful resource to share.
ACTIVITIES FOR THE SPORTS LOVER
We all know exercise is vital for healthy living and mental focus, but it is especially good for having fun and socialising. It is wonderful to discover that so many sporting organisations offer all-abilities opportunities. To see what is available and possible, it is a good idea to give it a go through ‘come and try days’. Most team sports offer these opportunities, including all-abilities soccer, netball and hockey. Sport NSW is developing a calender of ‘inclusion days’ for the trial of different sports. For example a baseball/softball inclusion league trial day is being held in November. You can find out more about this here.
One of the benefits of participating in ‘come and try’ days, is that often unique equipment is available to trial. An example is trying the ParaGolfer which is an all-terrain wheelchair that assists the golfer to stand in order to hit the ball. Several golf clubs offer days in their calender to trial the wheelchair, and some courses have the ParaGolfer available for hire. Check out Empower Golf here.
SOCCER & AFL
For team sports which offer all-abilities opportunities, it often requires investigating which clubs near you offer programs for adults rather than just children. Click here for possible soccer clubs. There is also power chair soccer that runs from May to September. Read more about it here. For those who love AFL, the league runs AllPlay which you can see here.
Maybe shooting hoops is the goal, and Basketball Australia coordinate wheelchair basketball clubs. Just contact them for more details
BJ loves boccia, and there are clubs in NSW which organise competitions. To find out more click here.
Lawn bowls is also an option if you contact local bowling clubs for inclusion activities. They have specific requirements for suitable wheelchair tyres, and this information can be found here.
If there are budding Don Bradman’s amongst us, some cricket clubs offer skills programs similar to children’s Milo In2Cricket, but it is geared for adults with special needs. Read more here.
For tennis enthusiasts, wheelchair tennis is in Alexandria Park, currently on Saturdays. Read about it here.
Tennis Australia has a list of venues with coaches available who focus on wheelchair tennis – https://www.tennis.com.au/play/players-with-a-disability/wheelchair-players/find-a-venue.
If hockey is the sport of choice, then power chair hockey has regular grading days at Mt Druitt. Read more here.
WHEELCHAIR SPORTS NSW & DISABILITY SPORTS AUSTRALIA
Two really helpful groups which offer a range of sports are Wheelchair Sports NSW and Disability Sports Australia. Click on the ‘Sports’ tab to discover the many sports on offer. There is the option of meeting with a Sport Development Officer at Wheelchair Sports NSW to discuss individual needs/interests. An ideal way to try many sports is through Junior Wheelies which is available up to the age of 20.
CEREBRAL PALSY SPORTING & RECREATION ASSOCIATION OF NSW
Considering BJ has Cerebral Palsy, we were also interested to discover the Cerebral Palsy Sporting and Recreation Association of NSW which has events for sports including soccer, swimming, athletics and cycling. Other organisations set-up to support people who have specific disabilities may have their own events which could be worthwhile investigating.
For instance, Sargood on Collaroy is available for individuals who have spinal injuries. Sargood has an accessible gym, and also offers programs including yoga and intensive exercise-based therapy courses. Read more about Sargood’s gym here.
Royal Rehab have many options available through their Return to Sport initiative including beach/surf, yoga, cycling, tennis, golf and snow sports. These run at their centre in Ryde or various locations throughout Sydney. Also within their facilities at Ryde there are sports courts and a hydrotherapy pool that can be hired. You can find out more about that here.
One of the sports offered through Return to Sport is cycling. Specialised staff can do assessments, equipment trials and provide coaching. They are located at Newington Armoury, Royal Rehab and the HUB in St Ives (a place dedicated for people in wheelchairs to ride). Read more here.
Cycling Australia also offers hand-cycling as does Wheelchair Sports NSW.
Not forgetting water sports, a definite for BJ’s schedule is sailing through Sailability. At various waterway locations, Sailability offer recreational programs, competitions and holiday activities. There are regular ‘come and try days’ – come along and you may sail alongside BJ! You can find out more about Sailability here.
DISABLED WATER SKIING
New South Wales Water Ski Federation disabled division is a water ski program open to all ages with various physical disabilities or vision impairment. The water ski program operates between October – April. Holding approximately 6 open ski days during the water ski season where people with disabilities can Come n Try or develop their water skiing skills. You can read more about this here.
DISABLED SURFERS ASSOCIATION
People who attend the surfing program with DSA have a range of reasons for doing so, from asthmatics, those with joint injuries and those with other disabilities which restrict their movement including paraplegia. From all reports it’s a fantastic way of learning a new skill with lots of support in a social environment.
You can check the dates on the events calendar here..
Many believe we are born to create/make things, and being able to express oneself through mediums including art, music and drama builds confidence and in itself can be therapeutic. There are actually trained therapists who use creative means to help people who have disabilities to learn new skills, change behaviour and achieve purposeful goals. The Australian Music Therapy Association is one such example. They have a database of current providers offering Musical Therapy. You can find that list here.
Nordoff Robbins is an organisation that provides music therapy and community interaction programs which you can read about here.
Our Have Wheelchair Will Travel friend Andrew Hewitt, who himself has cerebral palsy, has a remarkable talent for drumming. When he isn’t traveling the world playing his drums, he offers drumming lessons and clinics here.
In the same vein as music, there are organisations which offer performing arts. At the Joan Sutherland Theatre. the Access Ensemble occurs weekly for adults with mild to moderate physical/intellectual disabilities. Read more about that here.
Other theatres offer sporadic programs, whereby it is useful to keep an eye on their websites for upcoming events. This includes the Parramatta Riverside Theatre and their Beyond The Square focus.
It is also worth noting that some theatres offer shows which may be ideal for once-off activities to do with a support worker. For example, Parramatta Riverside Theatre has listings of accessible events and shows which you can check out here.
Parramatta Riverside Theatre also offers programs for those wanting to get their dancing shoes on. Run at various times of the year, The Right Foot has dancing programs for individuals up to 26 years of age. Keep an eye out for registrations for future activities here. For a regular dancing opportunity, Dance Chance is run at Berowra Heights with weekly programs for 5-70 year olds.
Disability Sports Australia can also answer queries for anyone wishing to try wheelchair dancing sport.
For the artistic among us, the Museum of Contemporary Art has Bella Plus Connect on the first Monday of the month. BJ loves joining this group, and the staff are friendly and helpful. Additionally, there are Bella Plus Groups tailored specifically to the makeup of individuals in the group. You can check out the MCA here.
You can read my review of the Bella Plus program here.
Tramshed Arts and Community Centre at Narrabeen runs programs for creative pursuits like craft, pottery, and more, but is currently closed until 2018 as they are making it more accessible. Information is available here.
HOBBIES & LEISURE PURSUITS
Several organisations offer a range of activities that involve the pursuit of leisure, and their events calendars are useful to look at. Specific programs include Productive Gardening at Royal Rehab. Within their centre at Ryde, clinicians can formulate therapy plans using the garden, or people are encouraged to just visit the garden for themselves or within a social context. The project garden officer can assist with tailoring a plan and advising about times and dates of events. Read about this program here.
The Secret Garden has day programs for gardening with special needs.The Secret Garden is part of North West Disability Services. NWDS have four main centres in North West Sydney which run a variety of programs each day, especially utilising facilities including mates sheds, farmyard animals, and gardens. There are also Table of 8 functions which is a social opportunity to have a 3 course dinner at their Baulkham Hills and Richmond sites. Read more here.
If being surrounded by all creatures great and small is a favourite leisure pursuit, then along with the farmyard animals at NWDS, some organisations offer pet therapy within their programs. One such place is Interaction in Castle Hill which offers pet therapy every Friday. Read more here.
For the horse-lover, Riding for the Disabled has therapeutic or recreational riding options. Some also offer Saddle Club which encourages interaction with horses, for people who are unable to ride them.
ORGANISATIONS OFFERING A VARIETY OF ACTIVITIES
Variety is the spice of life and organisations that provide a range of activities are definitely being considered by Julie for BJ to attend regularly. Offering opportunities to socially interact, have meaningful experiences and work on life goals are important factors Julie will consider when deciding which activities to choose.
Northcott is one such network that offers a range of activities, some of which a therapist can work alongside the individual and carer. They make individualised plans and calling 1800 818 286 is the first step to discover what’s on offer. With BJ’s diagnosis of cerebral palsy, the Cerebal Palsy Alliance have many different events within their calendar including exercise, life skills training, and volunteering. Read about the CPA’s activities here.
The Summitt Disability Network have interesting options during term time, often running day trips that leave from and return to Baulkham Hills. Summitt conduct interviews to discuss what suits best, otherwise there is the term outline to pick and choose what the individual would like to do. They also can arrange Saturday sporting teams. Read more about Summitt Disabilty here.
Interaction have regular events in their calendar that offer craft, pet therapy, music therapy, and more options to socialise. Fitability is one option where clients access a gym in Castle Hill 3 times a week, and receive education and support to make healthy life choices. Informaton about Interaction Services can be found here.
Warrah in Dural has a transition from school to adulthood program, along with a farm skills program. Warrah information can be found here.
Studio Arts are based in Hornsby and offer art, gym and lifestyle sessions. They have several options for scheduled times throughout the whole day. Read more about Studio Artes here.
Another company that offers group-based activities is Sunnyfield with their outreach program during the week for adults, or weekend adventure groups. Sunnyfield information can be found here.
Some companies offer ‘buddy’ options to encouraging socialising. Gym Buddies in Campbelltown involves a personal trainer running fitness classes for groups of adults with disabilities, so healthy exercise can occur while interacting at the same time. You can read about Gym Buddies here.
Gig Buddies pairs an adult over the age of 18 who has an intellectual disability, with a volunteer. They attend social events together including discos, clubs, sports matches and more. You can read more here.
No doubt this isn’t an exhaustive list of what programs are available for young adults who have a disability. We would love to hear from you about your experiences! We will add the details to this resource, so more people can be made aware of the variety of activities available within Sydney.
If you know of another activity suitable for people 18 years and older please let us know in the comments below.