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Concern about 'next national star' being barred from sports clubs because autistic athletes can't attend

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Six-year-old Ava Renwood is an aspiring athlete with big dreams of a career in sports.

But her mother, Ashley Brooke, worries that her lack of inclusivity and understanding for athletes with autism is limiting her options.

The Brisbane mother said her daughter “lives and dies” for weekly gymnastics, cheerleading and dance classes.

“Ava woke up in the morning [at] Like 7:00 am, ‘What kind of gym class do you have today?'” said Mr. Brooke.

After approaching a local sports club to take her daughter to the next level in sports, Brooke was encouraged to send her to a group dedicated to the disabled.

“It’s great to have a division for these athletes, but again, [it’s] It’s not comprehensive,” she said.

“[It’s] It’s like putting them in their own bubble. ”

Ava’s mother, Ashleigh Brook, says there is a need for more inclusive clubs for children with disabilities.(ABC News: Mark Leonardi)

Ava is keen to compete with her peers, but Brooke isn’t sure if she can find an inclusive club next season.

“This is the kind of situation that I’m wondering about,” Brooke said.

Sports events for students of all abilities

Charlotte Kanowski with her medal
Charlotte Kanowski and medals for winning the Queensland School Sports Triathlon in the Multiclass Autism Without Intellectual Impairment category.(ABC News: Merton Doblas)

14-year-old Charlotte Kanowski is a triathlete, marathon and aquathon athlete.

She was also the first and only student to participate in the Queensland School Sport Triathlon multi-class autism non-intellectually impaired category.

“I was proud of myself when I finished the race with a medal,” said Charlotte.

Charlotte Kanowski is in.
Charlotte Kanowski at the Noosa Triathlon.(attached)

Multi-class events allow students with disabilities to participate in an inclusive environment.

Events are currently offered in triathlon, cross-country, swimming and athletics.

The Department of Education has announced that for the first time this year, students with autism will be able to participate in the Queensland School Sports State Swimming Championships and State Triathlon multi-class events.

Charlotte’s mother, Jessica Kanowski, said creating an inclusive sports environment is about making “reasonable adjustments.”

“I think having that multi-class gives them the opportunity to try, but in a comfortable environment,” she said.

“Ultimately, it will be completely inclusive and all the kids will want to go and try it out together.

“We must be inclusive and allow access to all children so they can achieve their dreams.”

The Brisbane mother said she was lucky to find inclusive sports for her daughter, but it came with challenges.

“It can be difficult to find an instructor who is educated and knows what reasonable adjustments to make,” she said.

Charlotte Kanowski with her parents and sister
Charlotte Kanowski with her parents and sister – those who support her during competition.(ABC News: Merton Doblas)

Kanowski said it’s important for coaches to understand that every child on the spectrum has a different “sensory profile.”

“It’s a spectrum for that, and they’re all different,” she said.

“when [Charlotte] You may have moments or meltdowns, but that’s normal for her.

“That’s her emotional bubble, that’s how she expresses it, that’s part of autism.”

Seeing her daughter shine at the competition makes Kanowski proud.

“It makes me feel like she’s up there for the challenge. I’m really proud of her,” she said.

Sports clubs ‘fear the unknown’

Special Olympics Queensland coordinator Kim Rowley said many sports clubs are “fearing the unknown” surrounding athletes with autism.

“If you take them to the track, field or court, they’re athletes and they want to participate and train,” she said.

“It’s just breaking down those barriers and the fear of the unknown.”

She said many athletes with disabilities, including her own brother, struggle to be accepted into sports groups.

“My brother never got the chance to play sports, so we made it happen for him. [at the Special Olympics]said Laurie.

Kim smiles at the track and field stadium.
Special Olympics’ Kim Rowley says many athletes with autism struggle to be accepted into sports groups.(ABC News: Sarah Richards)

She said Special Olympics has helped provide comprehensive sports opportunities for athletes with intellectual disabilities and autism, and her brother continues to play basketball and golf nationally.

“It’s all about coach education, inclusion and just reminding coaches around the world that they are athletes, no matter where they are in Australia,” she said.

Special Olympics Australia National Athlete Leadership Coordinator Susie Bennett Yeoh says she hopes one day athletes with intellectual disabilities and autism will be accepted and welcomed by all sports teams. rice field.

“I’d like to go to a local basketball tournament and say ‘I want to play basketball’ and they’ll just say ‘Awesome’ and I’d love to meet some of the athletes I know,” she said. .

The ‘next national star’ falls through the chasm

A spokesperson for the Australian Sports Commission said it believes everyone should be able to participate in sport.

A spokesperson said, “It’s important that sports organizations reflect the diversity of the communities they serve, from local clubs to national sports organizations.