Deakin AllPlay™ experts include all kids in the fun of being active

Media release
13 March 2020

Experts from Deakin's Child Study Centre are making sure children of all abilities and development levels can join in the fun of being active, thanks to the AllPlay™ program.

AllPlay™ is a digital platform providing resources and education about inclusion for teachers, coaches and parents, to increase opportunities for children with disabilities to be physically active and truly included.

Launched in 2016 with the support of founding partner and leading toy company Moose Toys, it covers AllPlay Footy, AllPlay Dance, AllPlay Learn, and AllPlay Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Footy.

Deakin Child Study Centre Director Professor Nicole Rinehart said the AllPlay™ model had become a world-leading resource, with the team recently collaborating with experts from the Centre for Autism Research and Treatment at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA).

"AllPlay brings research, industry, sporting, dance and education bodies together with disability experts so children of all abilities can participate, including the one in five who have a developmental challenge or disability," Professor Rinehart said.

"The difference between AllPlay and other inclusive programs is that this is an evidence-based approach - we have a team of researchers who are carefully looking at the evidence that sits behind our toolkit and supports our programs and strategies, so that we know the strategies we’re delivering are effective and useful for the children who need it most."

Just in time for the latest NAB AFL Auskick season, new research from the Deakin-led AllPlay™ team has found NAB AFL Auskick can be beneficial for children with autism, as the activity can significantly reduce anxiety and reduce social problems. These findings were recently published in the Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders.

"Our most recent study found children with autism who took part in regular Auskick sessions showed a significant reduction in social problems such as difficulties with relationships and delayed social behaviours," Professor Rinehart said.

The AllPlay Footy website provides resources for children, parents and coaches aimed at supporting the child in addressing potential challenges to participation, such as social difficulties and anxiety.

While anxiety itself can be a barrier to participation in physical activity for children with autism, Professor Rinehart said the opportunity to try out NAB AFL Auskick before registering could serve as a form of exposure therapy.

The AllPlay™ team has published preliminary results in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health highlighting that the opportunity to try-out NAB AFL Auskick as part of a Pre-Learn Day program could potentially reduce the child’s level of anxiety when subsequently playing NAB AFL Auskick.

"Participating in a team sport can come with sensory challenges such as getting wet, touching mud and loud noises, however exposure to anxiety-provoking situations can often be an effective way of reducing anxiety if done in the right way," she said.

The full impact of AllPlay™ will be on display this weekend, as the program holds a Showcase day with children at the Moose Toys headquarters in Cheltenham, Victoria. The event will feature AFL players, NAB AFL Auskick sessions, and a performance from the AllPlay Dance program and US tennis partners ACEing Autism.

Moose Happy Kids Foundation General Manager Belinda Gruebner said Moose was proud to support the AllPlay™ Conference in Melbourne and host Saturday’s AllPlay™ Moose Showcase Event.

"The Moose Happy Kids Foundation was the founding donor five years ago, helping give AllPlay the boost from a dream to reality," Ms Gruebner said.

"Our funding has seen the AllPlay program flourish across AFL and Auskick nationally and has been the solid foundation for the tailored program for First Australians to also benefit from the AllPlay research.

"As a global company, we are incredibly proud to extend our support to the AllPlay and UCLA partnership, which is showing tremendous promise to expedite the research and turn it into accessible tools for all kids with learning disabilities. Our mission is to make kids Superhappy, and our partnership with AllPlay brings this mission to life on a grand scale."

AFL National Disability Inclusion Manager Tim Nield said the partnership between AllPlay™ and AFL was helping to make the sport as inclusive as possible for all kids.

"We are proud of our partnership with Deakin University towards the AllPlay Footy program, which is now entering its fourth year." Mr Nield said.

"The AllPlay program provides a number of useful resources for parents, coaches and volunteers to use throughout the season to support children with disability play our great game. Australian Football is a game for everyone, so we're delighted to work with the AllPlay program to ensure more families and children can participate in our national sport."

Professor Rinehart thanked the AllPlay™ partners, donors and collaborators for their support.

"Without the generosity of our partners and donors, AllPlay would not be delivering the positive community impact that it is today," she said.

"Alone, as researchers, clinicians and business leaders sitting in silos, we can take small steps towards improving the lives of children and their families. But working together, we can take giant steps forward that have a measurable impact on society."

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