Aoife Moynihan explores some of the sporting options for children with disability on the Beaches

There are 206,000 students with disability in public schools in NSW – yet many of them have trouble accessing mainstream sport at school or in the community.

Yet physical activity has been shown to have a positive outcome for the health and well-being of children with disabilities. It improves not only fitness, but also social and communication skills, and some reports have found that kids with disabilities do better at school as a result of regular exercise.

Data from the Australian Sports Commission shows that 47 per cent of children up to age 14 participated in organised outside-of- school-hours sports at least once a week in 2022.

Sports are important, but having a disability has been deemed a barrier to sports participation in almost 40,000 children up to age 14. However, there are an increasing number of organisations which cater for children with disability, with modified events and equipment to help them participate.

Autism Swim promotes inclusive aquatics, working with swim centres, schools and surf life saving clubs.

In January this year, Warriewood Surf Life Saving Club (SLSC) was the first club on the Northern Beaches to pilot the Autism Swims Dippers program.

Warriewood SLSC president John Dulieu says that children with autism often need constant supervision in the water.

“It’s like a Nippers program, except you have more one-on-one,” says John. “Nippers would have four or five water safety people per 20 kids. With Dippers, you need at least two per child.”

Autism Swim provides a clinician to support and train volunteers on how to better engage with special needs kids.

“Kids can be in the water in a safe environment,” says John. “It’s made such a difference to families.”

About 12 to 15 kids took part in the eight-week program, and John says he will rerun it if he’s club president next year and that it’s something other clubs should consider.

“We’re really proud of the club and all the volunteers because they were just absolutely fantastic,” says John.



Kickability, a modified AFL program, has been launched for the very first time on the Northern Beaches at the Pittwater Tigers Junior AFL Club.

The club has engaged a specialist disability coach. They also have several disability sports support staff who are used to working with kids with all sorts of challenges and disabilities, from autism or sensory issues or physical issues, including children with cerebral palsy.

“We’re able to take on many children with their varying challenges and disabilities so that they can become involved in a very modified form of and no contact-form of Australian rules Football,” says Sky Rose, one of the organisers and secretary of Pittwater Tigers, whose son Dane, 15, participates in the program.

Further information and registration for the Pittwater Tiger’s Kickability can be found at


Scott and Co


Crystal Bay Sailability in Newport offers people with disabilities a chance to sail regardless of age and level of disability.

The inclusive and diverse club operates as an integrated group within Royal Prince Alfred Sailing Club and supports variously able sailors and volunteers to get out on the water.

The club gives sailors with disability an opportunity for independent sailing on both manual and assisted Hansa class single seat solo dinghies, especially designed for safety and competing.

They also have specially adapted SKUD18 skiff class boats for two sailors and host regular regattas at state level. Visit


Manly Sailability offers people with disabilities an opportunity to sail regardless of age and level of disability, using specially adapted boats.

The inclusive and diverse club has been running since 1996, sailing initially from the little boat ramp at Manly Cove. The club has grown a lot over the years and now operates from Manly Yacht Club, using the expanses of Manly Cove and North Harbour.

As well as informal training races for people who want to sail competitively, the club occasionally organises race days occasionally for more experienced sailors.

Manly Sailability is run by volunteers and is always in need of more, so let them know if you’re interested in helping out. Booking a sail in advance is recommended. Visit

Sail away with Sailability

Rainbow Club is a network of social swimming clubs in NSW for children and young adults with disabilities.

With NDIS provider status and a unique Swim the Rainbow program, children and young adults with disability receive personalised swimming lessons, water safety skills and social participation each weekend during school terms.

Rainbow Club’s specially trained teachers base the lessons around the child’s needs. It offers three programs: swim the rainbow (3 to 18 years), rainbow squads (competitive stroke), and active moves (young adults).

Local Rainbow Clubs in the Manly area operate at Warringah Aquatic Centre and Carlisle Swimming at Harbord Diggers in Freshwater.

Pittwater’s Rainbow Club is the Aquatic Achievers in Warriewood.



Rainbow Club

Cerebral Palsy Alliance (CPA)

in Allambie Heights offers a wide array of sports for kids with disability through the NDIS scheme. At CPA, it’s all about mobility, strength, inclusion, and friendship.

Peter King, the sports development manager, tells NL that children go to CPA after school and partake in a range of activities. “They’ll move through different sports each term,” says Peter.

“Girl squad, teen squad, dance squad, multisport. And some come in for one-on-ones if there’s one sport they really want to focus on.”

CPA also supports kids off-site. At a recent school sports carnival at the Sydney Academy of Sport, staff helped two young female race-runners in wheelchairs participate in the multisport event with adapted equipment. “(It was) very important for those two young girls,” says Peter. “They (were not) sitting in their wheelchairs doing nothing, but actively running with their adaptive equipment. They could become paralympic race runners in years to come.”

CPA kids go bike riding and kayaking. Often, they combine outdoor events for an adventure day, where the team has to survive together, cope with the weather and fatigue, and learn about themselves and how to work as a team.

Peter says the benefits are enormous for the kids and CPA staff.

“The kids have fun, make friends, learn how to win and lose, try their hardest, be tired, have a medal around their neck and make a speech,” says Peter. “The kids bring so much energy and positivity every day. I’m very much recharged by it,” he adds.


CPA kids partake in many sports


For more in Manly

Disability Sports Australia:

Special Olympics:

Blind Sports Australia:

Wheelchair Sports NSW/ACT: