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AN INCLUSIVE sporting league has hit the ground running in Armstrong Creek with the life-changing opportunity allowing families to take part in their local club.
The Sporting Network of Autistic People and Parents (SNAPP) is a not-for-profit organisation dedicated to assisting neurodiverse families start their sporting journey.
Allison Gately formed SNAPP in 2017 as a bridging program for her son to familiarise himself with sport in a safe and enjoyable environment.
The SNAPP program is designed to welcome families living with Autism Spectrum Disorder into the community without explanation or advocacy for their children.
The program works alongside mainstream sporting clubs and allows kids to crossover when they are ready.
"Families of special needs can be very recluse to community programs for various reasons, often it is just as difficult for the parents as it can be for the child to brave the sports field," Ms Gately said.
The new Armstrong Creek league will join the network of SNAPP programs taking place across Melbourne and Greater Geelong with other local competitions being held at Geelong West, Grovedale and Leopold.
Playing alongside the Armstrong Creek Pelicans, Ms Gately said the SNAPP program "follows the seasons" with soccer offered during the winter months while cricket and tennis will be played over summer.
"My families feel part of the community as opposed to feeling like a separate disability group," she said.
"Sport is an incredible therapy it incorporates so much simultaneous cognitive development all within an hour.
"But that is hard for a local soccer or cricket club to be able to manage.
"It is okay when you have one high functioning autistic child, but we have 20 and it can't be explained or stereotyped, it just takes different strategies."
Ms Gately said the program is often just as beneficial for the parents as it is for their children.
"Our families will be meeting fellow families of neurodiversity, quite often for the first time and develop their own friendships and support for each other because no one understands the various aspects of autism unless you are living it," she said.
"Our kids also get to learn that they are not alone, that there are other kids out there just like them and they flourish as a result."
The SNAPP program has been running in Armstrong Creek throughout term 2 alongside the Pelicans junior soccer team on a Sunday morning.
"We welcome a free trial and our kids get a uniform immediately," Ms Gately said.
"We cater for ages five-plus and every colour of the spectrum, so the more participants we have on board, the better we can match the children to their goals and challenges for their age and characteristics."
For all enquiries and registrations please call 0499 762 778 or visit the SNAPP website at snapp.org.au to discover more about the program.