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What does therapy and rugby look like together?

Rugby can be a great means for addressing goals around social, motor and emotional skills. But what does therapy look like in a rugby session and how do we bring the two together? Read below to find out our top three ways of supporting kids to succeed and engage in sessions:

1. Making changes to the environment
This is a core Occupational Therapy principal and plays a big role in Sense Rugby! Our aim is to create an environment where kids feel safe to try new things and learn new skills. But how do you do this? The main thing is building predictability. When kids know what to expect then they can spend less time worrying on what might happen and focus on joining in. We do this is in sessions in many ways such as using visuals and keeping to a consistent pattern of activities. We also aim to keep the relationships consistent so kids can get used to the people who are supporting them. The language and instructions are also simplified and broken down according to the level the kids need.

2. Grading and adapting the activities to suit skill level
Playing a game of rugby and joining a team can sound pretty daunting for a lot of kids. So we have broken down the big game into smaller ones, which are broken down into different activities. We practice and learn each of the skills in these activities to eventually work up to playing a game when the kids are ready. The coaches bring to the sessions their knowledge of the rugby game, whilst therapists bring the knowledge of what level we need to start at so the kids can have success. We look at making the instructions, the movement pattern or the social challenge easier or harder as needed. The most important thing is that the kids are getting the ‘just right challenge’. They need to feel the task is easy enough that they can do it, but still had to work to get there, that’s when success feels so good!

3. Building kids skills to improve their performance
This will look different according to the needs and goals of the child, but essentially it’s working out the question ‘why can’t they do this activity and what do they need?’ Over the sessions, therapists are analysing the underlying causes as to why a child may not be able to progress to that next step and begin trialling strategies to get them there.
For example, let’s have a look at how we might break down social skills to work out where the child needs support and skill development:
⦁ Staying calm and comfortable in the space around peers
⦁ Reading social and environmental cues
⦁ Understanding social situations
⦁ Problem solving social conflicts

Once we have determined where gaps are we can begin to build the kids skills up.