Sydney-based paediatric occupational therapist, Carlien Parahi, has spent years working with children who, for a range of reasons, found it difficult to engage in various aspects of life – including sport.
She realised that opting out of the team environment because of the challenges it posed meant these children were also losing out on the social, emotional and physical bene ts sport can also provide.
Determined to give them back the opportunities they were missing, Carlien and her husband Jesse, an Australian rugby sevens Olympian, created Sense Rugby, a first-of-its-kind program providing occupational therapy through team sport.
Launched on the Central Coast in October 2015, the program is now running in around 10 different locations across the state including the Hunter, with plans to expand into more areas this year.
The program operates in line with school terms, with sessions running for one hour each week teaching a variety of basic rugby skills.
Drawing on both their strengths, the couple recognised the parallels between the often physical-based nature of occupational therapy treatments and the skills involved in a team sport such as rugby union or league.
“I’m a paediatric occupational therapist and my role is really to help kids who have conditions like autism or ADHD or anything that is stopping them from doing what they want to do every day,” Carlien said.
“When working with those kids I found a lot of them were missing out on being part of a sports group because they were finding it hard to concentrate in a group, or socialise with their friends, or stay calm enough to actually listen to the instruction”….
Story Michelle Meehan.