Sport 4 rural health- more than just sport

Jess Law1, Michael Watkins2

1University of South Australia, Department of Rural Health, 111 Nicolson Avenue Whyalla Norrie, 5608, jess.law@unisa.edu.au
2University of South Australia, Department of Rural Health, 111 Nicolson Avenue Whyalla Norrie, 5608, michael.watkins@unisa.edu.au

Sport 4 Rural Health is a multi-disciplinary physical activity program aimed at improving the physical, social and cognitive health of children and youth with special needs in the Whyalla Community.

Literature suggests that children and youth with cognitive and/or physical impairments are generally less active than children who are considered to be neuro-typical. On top of this, certain conditions such as Autism Spectrum Disorder can cause both behavioural and social impairments. This makes it more difficult for the child living with ASD to engage in conversation, participate in group activities and generally make friends. The literature highlights the importance of physical activity for physical health as well as for the social and psychological benefits it can have for children and youth living with cognitive and/ or physical disabilities.

In 2015, the Whyalla Special Education Centre identified the need for a physical activity program that could help improve motor skills as well as the added social and psychological benefits. The University of South Australia Sport and Development program, The UniSA Department of Rural Health and the Whyalla City Council were approached to partner with the school to develop and facilitate the Sport 4 Rural Health Program.

Into its third term, the program is run by local Health and Education University Students from the Whyalla campus to facilitate physical activity sessions for the students from the Whyalla Special Education Centre. This arrangement is mutually beneficial with the University students gaining valuable experience in working with children with special needs and the school students receiving specialised physical education sessions.

Biography

Jess Law currently works as the Project Officer with the University of South Australia Department of Rural Health. With a background in Health Education and Health Promotion, Jess is passionate about linking students and community groups to improve health outcomes for all through focussing on the Social Determinants of Health. Her previous work has been in obesity prevention with the state government and developed a passion for fundamental movement skills and gardening through this work.