By Nicole Davis
The long hot days of summer are upon us and while there’s so much to love about the holidays (let’s hear it for six weeks without school drop offs and pick ups!), it means there are a whole lot of hours to fill with kids who need entertaining!
Finding things to do that the whole family can enjoy can be especially challenging when your child has a disability, but don’t despair – we’ve put our thinking caps on and reckon some of these ideas just might fit the bill…
CELEBRATE THE GREAT OUTDOORS
We are blessed with some of the most beautiful natural environments in the world here in Australia and thanks to both adaptive equipment and organisations’ initiatives they are gradually becoming more accessible and inclusive…
One of our very own Source Kids mums is a huge fan of fishing with her boys and can attest to what a great, relaxing activity it is for all the family. There are kid safe spots and creeks all over the country so you can easily kit yourself out with some rods and bait and set up with a picnic for the day. If you want a bit of help and advice to get you going you can “hook” up with an organisation with programs specifically for people with disability and their families.
Fishability (WA) –
Young Guns Fishing (NSW, VIC & QLD) www.younggunsfishing.com.au
That’s the Thing About Fishing (VIC) thatsthethingaboutfishing.org.au
TAKE A HIKE
Another way of celebrating the Australian great outdoors is to pay a visit to one of our beautiful National Parks or local nature trail. Many parks have easy circuits and wheelchair accessible trails and there are a growing number of beauty spots that now provide access to a TrailRider – an all- terrain wheelchair which can be hired for free. The TrailRider does require two people to handle it but in Victoria you can book the services of a ‘Sherpa’ – a volunteer who manages the TrailRider and can guide you around the park. Remember you’ll also need to book ahead for use of the chair.
Some accessible trails to try include Buderim Boardwalk and Barron Falls Lookout Track in QLD, Bungoona Path and Lookout and Ironbank Flat – both near Sydney and in Victoria check out the Surf Coast Walk and Lake Trail of Lake Karkarook.
For more trails and tracks check out www.trailhiking.com.au/tag/accessible-hikes
Also, take a look at the National Parks website for your state to get more info on accessibility and trail grades. On the Parks Victoria website for example you’ll find social scripts for some of their locations – and TrailFinder availability.
HIT THE BEACH
Universal access to our country’s beautiful beaches is starting to become a reality, largely due to the astounding work by Accessible Beaches who have now helped to activate at least 25 wheelchair accessible patrolled beaches across Australia. There are a number of key features that make a beach accessible and different spots may have one or all facilities available at different times throughout the year. Beach wheelchairs – including those that float in the water, facilities with bathrooms, showers and changing rooms that can be accessed by a wheelchair user, wide walkways and matting, as well as transport infrastructure and parking are all elements that contribute to a beach’s accessibility. Find out what’s available near you or your upcoming vacation spot at www.accessiblebeaches.com
MAKE SOME NEW FRIENDS
Parks and playgroups can be intimidating for special needs families but there are options where you don’t have to reach too far out of your comfort zone.
Playgroup Australia provides Supported Playgroups, which are available for families from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds, indigenous families, families with mental health or disability issues, teenage and young parent families,
families who are socially isolated, vulnerable or disadvantaged and grandparent carers. For further information on Supported Playgroups in your area, contact your local State and Territory Association on 1800 171 882.
For a park experience like no other, make a plan to visit a Livvi’s Space – a network of truly inclusive playgrounds across Australia with a unique environment that allows children of all ages and all abilities to play side by side. Each play space includes some soft fall rubber flooring, visual and audio stimulation and is configured to maximise creative, physical, social and cognitive play. They are also totally fenced and shaded for protection from the elements. These wonderful spaces are definitely worth a visit. Find your nearest playground at touchedbyolivia.com.au/open-for-play/ or you can head to Playground Finder for more accessible options – www.playgroundfinder.com/lists/32
Splash parks, water play parks, splash pads etc. are another great idea for free fun that everyone can get involved in. The wide flat surfaces provide easy access for wheelchairs and are a great sensory experience everyone can enjoy; just make sure you take lots of sunscreen and sun-safe rash gear as shade isn’t high on the priority list of many of these parks. Unless you own a beach wheelchair you may also have do a spot of DIY waterproofing to your child’s chair to protect cushions and upholstery.
If you’re happy to get a bit wet however, Google will help you find your nearest spot for some splashing fun.
BEAT THE HEAT
We do love a good dose of vitamin D and sunshine but sometimes the summer heat can be too much for fragile and easily fatigued kids (and parents!). Try these indoor activities where you can stay cool while having fun.
HIT THE LANES
Did you know that Tenpin bowling is one of Australia’s most popular leisure and sporting activities for people with a disability. Tenpin Bowling Australia pride themselves on the inclusiveness of their venues and measures to include all participants in play. Facilities will differ from centre to centre but initiatives include wheelchair access to lanes, lighter balls, special bowling ramps and more. The computerised scoring systems are great too for anyone who may struggle with numbers.
TAKE IN A MOVIE OR SHOW
In the height of summer there’s nothing quite like the air-conditioned respite of your local cinema or theatre but sometimes worries about your child’s behaviour can, quite literally, be a show-stopper. We know we should live in a world where everyone is welcome all of the time, but if you’d rather not worry about eye-rolls from people who just don’t understand, keep an eye out for sensory sessions both at the movies and at any of the big touring shows that hit the theatres for the summer season. Sensory session times can be found on the Event Cinemas website or visit Sensory Souls Facebook page and check out the what’s on info at places like Arts Centre Melbourne and Sydney Opera House etc for accessibility info and sensory session dates.
If your child goes stir crazy being cooped up inside for too long then an inclusive sensory gym could be just the thing you need. The Shine Shed in Campbelltown, Sydney provides a unique sensory play experience designed to meet the needs of children, teens and young adults with a disability. Everyone is welcome – with or without special needs – it’s a venue where everyone can play, meet other families and enjoy their time in a supportive and non-judgemental environment. Bookings can be made for open play sessions at www.shineshed.com.au
If you’re in Victoria check out the awesome Sensory Gym, We Rock the Spectrum in Preston – another fantastic inclusive play space providing kids of all abilities with a fun and motivating environment to play, regulate and grow together. Outlets are also planned for Geelong, Western Sydney,
Wollongong and Moorabbin. www.werockthespectrumaustralia.com
GET YOUR SKATES ON
Ask your local ice rink if they run any fun, informal sessions suitable for people with a disability. The skate helpers/ice penguins are a great aid for some kids who need a little extra help on the ice and it’s even worth asking if any rinks hold sessions where wheelchairs are allowed on the ice. It’s not unheard of and if you don’t ask, you’ll never know!
A museum can be a great place to explore and often in air-conditioned comfort on those super- hot days! Many facilities have great interactive science-based displays with tactile displays that children are encouraged to explore. Many facilities are free and for those that charge, Companion Card holders can often bring their attendant for free. Melbourne Museum is known at the Autism friendly museum with a number of facilities for patrons with special needs including social stories, a map of high and low sensory spaces and a number of quiet times for visiting. Google your local museum to find out if it is as accommodating.