OT students empower budding Paralympians to dream big

A life-changing new program is giving young people of all abilities the confidence to develop an everlasting love of physical activity.

Australian Catholic University’s partnership with the Brisbane Paralympic Football Program (BPFP) supports community health by removing barriers to participation in sport.

The PREP 4 BPFP initiative connects families with occupational therapists and students who have been trained to collaboratively set goals with children and families, and problem solve challenges which can prevent involvement in sport. 

It uses an evidence-based approach to empower children who have been sidelined by the COVID-19 restrictions with the skills and confidence to participate in BPFP sessions at ACU’s field and at the program’s Westside Grovely headquarters from Term 3.

“It’s been a difficult time not being able to engage in recreational activities, which are particularly important for children with disabilities,” ACU Associate Professor Dr Laura Miller said.

“This is an intervention that focuses – not on what the children can’t do – but on their strengths, and how they can use that to overcome whatever barriers they might face.”

BPFP participants in the five-week program will benefit from weekly telehealth consultations with third-year ACU occupational therapy students under the supervision of a qualified occupational therapist with a background in football.

The appointments will facilitate goal-setting and the development of individually tailored plans to help the participant overcome the challenges keeping them from organised physical activity and develop skills and confidence to achieve their goals.

Then the fun stuff begins. The plans underpin regular BPFP Sunday field training sessions that are tailored to encourage participation of children of all abilities, to their best ability.

PREP 4 BPFP provides vital support for families of children with disabilities as well as professional placement opportunities for budding occupational therapists to develop and evaluate their skills.

“It gives us a good understanding of the supports we need to put in place for them,” ACU student Emily Morisaki said.

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