Sports days in Rotorua just got more inclusive. Rebecca Malcolm discovers kids with disabilities can also benefit from participating in events.
When it came to sports days in the past, children with disabilities might have been given jobs like keeping the score.
But that's all about to change, thanks to a $15,000 grant from the Rotorua Energy Charitable Trust.
The donation is now making it easier for children with disabilities in the Rotorua area to participate in sports and recreation - building their confidence, skills and abilities as they play and compete alongside other children.
The funding has been used to help run the Halberg Disability Sport Foundation's No Exceptions Training (NET) in the Rotorua area, after the trust granted a similar amount last year.
The training is a package of workshops for teachers, teacher aides, coaches, tertiary students and activity providers, on adapting sport, physical education and recreation to ensure they can include physically disabled New Zealanders.
Last year the 17 workshops run across the Rotorua area benefited 253 trainees, and thousands of disabled youth in the region.
For Halberg Disability Sport Foundation chief executive officer Geoff Burgess it's all about getting them out and participating.
"In the past, a child with disabilities might have been told 'you can keep score' or 'go to the library' while others do physical education.
"That affects their confidence and limits their opportunities. But when you are able to include children with disabilities you see their self-esteem, skills and abilities, relationships and attitudes, and other aspects of their lives, noticeably improve."
The workshops are about showing those involved ways they can adapt and modify physical activities to include children with disabilities.
It can range from changing where they take part, the game rules or the teams to make the activity more inclusive, fair and enjoyable.
And it's a concept that comes naturally to other kids, Geoff says.
"Kids are brilliant with it.
"We talk about how we can include someone or make something more balanced, and the kids themselves often come up with how we can change the rules of a game to make it more inclusive."
Those involved in the workshops then develop an action plan for their school, and get access to online resources and idea-sharing forums, adapted equipment, and ongoing support and evaluation from Halberg Disability Sport Foundation.
In Rotorua, Cherryl Thompson has taken the role of delivering the programme.
The Halberg Disability Sport advisor says she loves her job.
"The reward for me is the community sees people with disabilities out in public, doing sports alongside everyone else, and that is really important for people to see that."
She also works with school coaches, so they have the skills and insight to support children with disabilities if they want to play after-school sports such as netball.
One of the schools to benefit is Kaharoa School.
Last year the entire teaching staff of eight, plus principal Warwick Moyle, attended two of the workshops.
Warwick says, in particular, they were after ways to support one of their students, who is in a wheelchair.
"It was very helpful. It got us to think about our practices, and how we can adapt and plan for different situations and how games can be modified without ruining their intent and the pleasure of the game for all children. The programme was also relevant for children who aren't as sporty, for the kids who find it challenging to do physical activities and sports."
After the programme, he was inspired to ask the school's caretaker to make an arm wrestling table so the student could use it for fitness and fun with other students.
"He is strong in the arms and upper body and it was a workout for him."
Together with Cherryl, they worked to develop this week's cross-country event to include a visually impaired child, a child with a wheelchair and a child with an intellectual disability.
Cherryl says they looked at it right from setting the course, not as a mere afterthought.
Simple things make a difference, such as pairing up a visually or intellectually impaired child with a buddy.
"Their limbs are not impaired so it's about using what they have and doing what they can do.
"A boy in an electric wheelchair can't be expected to go around the sports field three times, so it's perhaps creating a shorter course on the netball courts, because it takes him the same time to do that with the same effort, and he gets a good workout."
Cherryl is expecting at least half a dozen Rotorua children with disabilities to go on to represent their schools in the Bay of Plenty Inter School Cross-country Champs, in the 'athlete with a disability' section.
Geoff says hearing the feedback from parents about how a child's confidence has been boosted as a result of the work is what makes it worthwhile.
"It makes a huge difference to these children and their families. They start to see horizons where there had been limitations. A huge thanks to Rotorua Energy Charitable Trust, whose support allows us to run our Halberg NET programme, because without that support we wouldn't be able to do it, it's as simple as that."