Southern River College uses parkour to help kids in Autism Extension Program

Head parkour coach Ben Westbrook with Southern River College students Taneesha Bullock (13) and Josh Wade (11). Picture: Jon Hewson
Head parkour coach Ben Westbrook with Southern River College students Taneesha Bullock (13) and Josh Wade (11). Picture: Jon Hewson

SOUTHERN River College’s Autism Extension Program students are learning the basics of the physically challenging sport of parkour.

The five-week trial is helping the kids develop social skills while teaching them functional and challenging movement exercises in a relaxed atmosphere.

Parkour is a sport involving individuals navigating obstacles by running, jumping, climbing and balancing.

Teacher Jamie Polich, himself a parkour enthusiast, said while the fitness side of the sport was enticing, he hoped it would hone the participants’ social skills.

“It’s about social communication and social currency for these kids, doing what is perceived to be a bit of a physically challenging or admiration type sport,” he said.

“This is more of an individual thing so they can actually get out into the community and it can link them into community groups as well.

“They’re increasing their social and thinking skills with like-minded people.”

Mr Polich said the school was using rewards like the parkour program to encourage kids to take more of an interest in school.

“Engagement is one of the main things, one of our goals for this particular program is to increase attendance at school and this is one of the things we use to provide engagement,” he said.

The program is run by fitness centre Movements Co., who are specialists in alternative movement training.

Movements Co. head parkour coach Ben Westbrook said he loved seeing the kids take an interest in the increasingly popular sport.

“I absolutely love it, it’s brilliant to see parkour has become a little bit more mainstream and is accepted in places like schools,” he said.

“Gone are the days where people just see it as teenagers running and jumping around, the co-ordination and focus that’s involved in parkour is brilliant, especially for young children.”

Movements Co. founder Jacob Moffitt said parkour would help the kids improve their general co-ordination.

“The mind-body connection and the coordination, you don’t normally get that through a lot of gym exercises, sports is very linear with its movement,” he said.

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