Telethon grant to support children with autism at Rocky Bay

Apr 8, 2022

Physiotherapists Monique and Elise

We are thrilled, for the second year running, to be one of 97 beneficiary organisations sharing in a $62 million grant from the Channel 7 Telethon Trust!

Rocky Bay’s share of the grant will see the launch of a new program to support children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) to develop water safety awareness and to participate in swimming programs.

The pilot program, called AusSwim, will support 12 children aged five to 14 years and their families. Using a holisitic approach including occupational therapy, physiotherapy and speech therapy, the program will nurture the foundational skills required for children to safely access water, improve access to the physical, mental and cognitive benefits of water activities, as well as improve community inclusion.

AusSwim sessions will be based in a community setting to help increase participation and to assist with the transition into community-based programs. The program will also be open to children ineligible to access the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS), and to those who are not permanent residents of Australia.

Royal Life Saving research shows that children and adolescents with ASD are three times more likely to down than children without ASD.

The high rates of drowning in children with ASD is underpinned by numerous factors, some of which Rocky Bay Physiotherapist, Monique D’Opera, says may see parents avoid swimming as an activity for their child.

“Increased sensory challenges due to loud noises, a large number of children, or reduced attention in comparison to one-on-one classes are some reasons why parents may avoid swimming activities with their child,” says Monique.

“Some children require focused, targeted and simple instruction, and also behavioural challenges or increased social anxieties may present difficulties in group classes. Often ASD coexists with ADHD or an intellectual disability, which may result in challenges with attending group classes and the comprehension of instructions.”

The children’s health and wellbeing will benefit from improved cardiovascular fitness, muscle strength, endurance, gross motor coordination, and their overall participation in physical activity. The known calming effect of water will also help the children to better engage in their therapy, gain additional benefits in areas such as communication, emotional regulation and positive social behaviours.

Children who participate in the program will work towards achieving their goals, which is usually attending mainstream swimming lessons to increase their water safety and skills even further.

In addition to the launch of the AusSwim pilot program, new elements have also been added to Rocky Bay’s Early Start Intervention Program (ESIP) pilot, which is now in its second year of Telethon support.

The program, launched in early 2021, provides critical therapy support to children with, or who are at risk of, rare diseases, and supported more than 24 families throughout 2021.

It provides intensive intervention and support including physiotherapy, speech pathology, occupational therapy and hydrotherapy. Our organisation is leading on helping to bridge the gap by targeting children from infancy to five years of age with identifiable risk factors, providing access to goal oriented one-on-one home based therapy, and group based hydrotherapy.

The new elements being included in the program for 2022 include funding for additional places for children and their families, and the inclusion of a social worker leading playgroups over the winter months.

Our heartfelt appreciation goes out to the Channel 7 Telethon Trust for selecting Rocky Bay as a grant recipient, and to the Western Australian community for their generosity!

Click here to find out more about the ESIP program on our website. Fill out the form below to be the first to know when registrations open.

Autism Swim Expression of Interest


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