Levelling the field so all can play

A Deakin University program is kicking goals for children with a disability.

As a new AFL season begins, so does AFL Auskick, a program for children around the country to learn the skills and rules of the game with other kids their age.

However, children with disabilities often miss out on the fun, and benefits, of team sports like Australian Rules – an issue a national project from the Deakin Child Study Centre (DCSC) is hoping to address.

AllPlay – a collaboration between DCSC and the AFL, with funding from Moose Toys and the National Disability Insurance Agency (NDIA) – has been specially designed to support children with disabilities to feel comfortable and enjoy the benefits of participating on the footy field.

The AllPlay website, and free companion app, gives coaches, parents and clubs access to handy tips and information on making Auskick a safe and inclusive space for children who may have a developmental delay or disability.

Led by Professor Nicole Rinehart, Director of the DCSC, with research collaborators at Charles Darwin University, Perth’s Telethon Institute and the University of Melbourne, AllPlay aims to change the fact that access to sport in Australia is not a level playing field.

“Sport is a cornerstone of Australian culture, and it’s important for all children, regardless of ability,” Prof Rinehart said.

“However, children with developmental challenges, such as autism, ADHD, cerebral palsy, language disorders and intellectual disabilities, often feel their disabilities are a barrier to participating in team sport.

[testimonial_text]AllPlay is about opening up opportunities for sport to all children, because we can see that it has such a positive impact on not just their physical development, but their social development, too.[/testimonial_text]
[testimonial_picture name=”Professor Nicole Rinehart” details=”Director, DCSC”]
Professor Nicole Rhinehart[/testimonial_picture]

As part of the AllPlay program, the researchers will conduct a trial to examine the benefits of participating in team sport for children with a disability.

The research team is hoping to recruit children aged between five and 12 who can travel to Melbourne or Geelong for the study.

Prof Rinehart explained researchers would be measuring children’s physical, emotional and social benchmarks at the start of the Auskick season and then following up at the end.

The project would look at children who were involved in the Auskick program over that period and those who weren’t in order to see what the differences were.

“We want to better understand the social, emotional, physical, and family benefits of participating in organised sport for children with disability at a young age,” Prof Rinehart said.

“By understanding these benefits in a scientific way, we can take an important step towards our ultimate goal of ensuring children with disability are prescribed sport from a young age to help aid their mental and physical development.”

Visit the AllPlay website, or download the free AllPlay Footy app from the App Store or Google Play. For more information and to take part in AllPlay research in Melbourne or Geelong, email

This story was published by Deakin Research on April 4, 2017.

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