Penrith Giants

What we did

One of our club members’ parents came up with the Kickability initiative after having difficulty finding an Australian Rules football club that would cater for her child, who is on the autism spectrum.

We examined how other states implemented similar all-play AFL programs for children and then tailored those examples for each child’s individual needs at our club.
To assist in rolling out the initiative, we:

  • arranged for the program coordinator and assistants learn basic Auslan sign language to better communicate with non-verbal children
  • provided all children, no matter their abilities, with a book containing easy-to-understand rules and Auslan signs
  • provided children with one-to-one training, if needed
  • provided an on-field support person, if needed
  • worked with parents to set goals for the children and a checklist for each session
  • gave children an opportunity to play in a half-time Auskick game to promote mental health awareness in young people in conjunction with the Gotcha 4 Life Foundation
  • gave children an opportunity to play at Spotless Stadium during a Greater Western Sydney Giants game in front of 13,000 people.

Why we did it

The parent of a club member had indicated that there were few opportunities for siblings with disabilities who wanted to participate in club games.

These opportunities needed to be safe, and accessible for nonverbal children to communicate with the coach and avoid meltdowns.

As a club, we have made a commitment to include as many children as possible in our sport, and so developed a program that would accommodate these children.

How we know it worked

Our initial goal was to help children on the spectrum gain basic ball skills, but we surpassed that goal very quickly with two children gaining sufficient skills to play alongside their peers this season, and a further eight earmarked to do so next season, with none requiring extra support.

We regularly surveyed parents and at the end of the season had recorded no negative feedback, with all families indicating that they are returning next season.

Participation registers showed that 80% of children participated twice a week.
Our ‘Kickability’ program is the most viewed on our social media, with an average of 400 views.

Such is the interest, that next season we have advertised for two new coaches to help with expansion.

Existing coaches have all gained extra skills including extra first aid and basic Auslan.
Our junior coach—who has autism–now aspires to build his career around further assisting people with disabilities participate in sport once he has finished school.

We further plan to assist other clubs to introduce Kickability next season.