Inclusion and Universal Design for Learning
April 1, 2016
Dancing to the Same Beat
April 27, 2016

Spending time at the beach is a fundamental part of life for many Australian kids. For those who live near the coast, joining “Nippers” at their local Surf Life Saving Club is what lots of children and their friends do each summer. With this in mind, the beach side community on the Far North Coast of NSW decided they wanted to make Nippers more inclusive for children of all abilities. To bring this idea to fruition, Autism Spectrum Australia (Aspect) teamed up with Lennox Head- Alstonville Club and Ballina Lighthouse and Lismore Surf Life Saving Clubs to plan a “Have a Go at Nippers” day for children of all abilities.

We asked Taya Prescott of Autism Spectrum Australia (Aspect) Northern NSW about this inclusive event.

“We started working on the project about a year before the event. It was very important to us, that this event would be open to all children, rather than being a special day solely for children with disabilities. We worked with a group of typically developing children prior to raise understanding and awareness of differing abilities. The children helped design resources to make the Surf Life Saving Clubs more inclusive for all children” said Taya.

Taya says “We worked very closely with the Surf Life Saving Club to develop a “What we do at Nippers” Kit which included a brief manual for Surf Life Saving volunteers, video clips, visual supports and a social story about Nippers. We also developed an inclusive registration form to gather information from parents about their child’s strengths and needs to help us prepare.” P1000083 cropped

The big day

On Saturday 27th February 2016 Lennox Head Beach was buzzing  with 65 Nippers and their families including 25 children with additional needs participating in the “Have a go at Nippers” day. There were 4 different activities set up and run by volunteers. These activities were wading, paddling, flags and relays. A visual schedule of the routine for the day was used to support children’s understanding of the routine. Children of all abilities joined 4 different groups. Some consistent support adults remained with each group as it rotated through each activity. Children were forewarned before each activity ended to prepare them for the next transition. Everyone enjoyed a sausage sizzle at the end of the day.

Family perspectives

Katrina and Anthony Toben came along with their son, Joshua, to see what Nippers was all about. Joshua has a diagnosis of autism. “Joshua had a ball,” Mr Toben buy cheap premarin said. “It’s great he’s mixing with other children. “This is such a great activity for all of the kids and for us as parents.”
“We’re very interested in joining Nippers because ever since Joshua was born he’s been a water baby. He loves the ocean,” Mrs Toben said.

Vanessa Mills, mother of 8 year old Bronte who was already a Nipper and participated in the activities and Jess who is 14 was one of the Age Managers leading one of the groups said: “They both enjoyed seeing the children joining in and having a go, learning new skills and gaining confidence. There were smiles on all the children’s faces.”

The only real challenge was with nature!

Because all the video footage and visual supports needed to be shot at the beach, fine weather was essential. There were days when the beach was closed and filming of videos for the “What We Do At Nippers” kit needed to be rescheduled.

Lasting effects

Volunteers from Alstonville Club andGirls cropped(1) Ballina Lighthouse and Lismore Surf Life Saving Clubs say that they now feel equipped and confident to enrol children of all abilities in Nippers.

Bob Mills, Lennox Head – Alstonville Nippers Age Manager said: “The support and documentation provided by “What we do at Nippers” is very comprehensive and assisted the running of the Nipper Inclusion Day immensely.”

There has been interest from other areas who are planning their own similar events, as a starting point to enrol in Nippers.

If you know anyone from a Surf Life Saving Club who may be interested making Nippers more inclusive at their club,  please pass on this blog to raise awareness about the availability of the “What We Do at Nippers” resource. Surf Life Saving Clubs can email  and ask for a “What We Do at Nippers” kit to be sent out.

“What We Do At Nippers” was made possible thanks to the FundAbility grant program, a two-year disability inclusion initiative run by Northcott and funded by the Department of Family and Community Services.

Have you organised an inclusive event similar to the Nippers event?

What were your challenges?

How did the children find it?

Do you have any suggestions for others thinking of organising an inclusive community/sporting event?

Have you ever organised a similar inclusive sporting activity?

Tell us about your experiences with organising inclusive sporting and community events below:

Emma Pierce
Emma Pierce
Transition to School / Inclusion Coordinator Emma has worked in the non-government disability sector for the last 18 years. She has developed and facilitated training and resources for parents and professionals across NSW and presented papers at national and state conferences. Emma was previously the Manager of Building Blocks® Early Intervention Service at Autism Spectrum Australia (Aspect). Emma also lectures casually at Western Sydney University and works as an independent consultant to Early Childhood Intervention services. Emma is the main author of ECIA NSW’s Transition to School Resource and has worked for ECIA NSW/ACT since 2013.


  1. Emma says:

    This looks like such a great inititiative. I love that there is a package which others can use to make their own inclusive programs more inclusive.

  2. Taya says:

    Thank you ECIA for sharing our Nippers story! It was such a fun day, and we look forward to hearing from families when they start Nippers next season for the first time. It was lovely to see everyone participating together in a judgement-free and completely inclusive environment, and all with big smiles!

    • Emma Pierce says:

      Thanks for sharing the story, Taya! Great to hear that the kids enjoyed it so much and want to go back again! Do you have any other words of advice for others setting up something similar?

  3. Taya says:

    Hi Emma,
    Of course – I think it’s really valuable to find people in the community who are involved, passionate and connected to the community to be advocates for inclusion. We are lucky to have so many people in our community (and at the Surf Clubs) who are passionate about inclusion and making our community accessible for every single person. We can provide knowledge and resources, but our advocates are the most important driving force for change!

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