The Somerton SEALs is a Special Needs Nipper Group, based on the Under 6 Surf Play program. Although the participants range in age, we find the Under 6 program is the most appropriate one to use, as it is already very play-based and easily adaptable to changing beach and weather conditions.
Our aim is to provide a “normal” Nipper experience for disabled children who would not normally have access to such a program. We do not provide a respite for parents – they stay on the beach to assist where required, and engage with the program, as in standard Nippers. We engage families in the program and the club and promote Surf Life Saving as inclusive and accepting. This program is about learning though participation, rather than achieving through learning.
Our group meets every second Saturday during the Nipper season, starting the 5th December, between 11am and 12:30pm. This is prior to our normal Nipper time – one of the benefits of running in this time slot is that the Somerton SEALs participants can stay and watch their siblings and other Nippers, and engage with them before and afterwards in the club environment. Everything we do in the session is always discussed with the children before starting, and most of our activities are sound-based as many of the participants are visually-impaired. We aim to have a mix of sand activities, wading and water acclimatisation and water-based activities, but all planning needs to be flexible, depending on the participants’ needs and wants on the day.
We follow exactly what is required of Nipper programs as laid down by SLSA – all Nippers wear a cap, and must wear a fluoro vest in the water, and we use standard equipment such as Nipper Boards and Rescue Boards. We use other play equipment such as a large floating mat (very popular!) similar to those used in pool-based infant programs, foam boards, balls with bells attached.
The Somerton SEALs is an extremely rewarding program. Our youth volunteers develop leadership skills (and many are now interested in becoming Age Group Leaders). Our younger volunteers (8 – 11 years) are given an opportunity to volunteer within Surf Life Saving – there are not many of these available to this age group, and this allows them to start developing group and leadership skills as well, and also instils the values of volunteerism in them from a young age.
We are very proud to provide a service to the community that had previously been lacking in our area. If you are interested in participating or volunteering with this program please email Margie Brown at firstname.lastname@example.org