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Risk Is For All Neurodiversity, Disability and Belonging
16 April 2024

Risk Is For All : Neurodiversity, Disability and Belonging

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Everyone deserves to feel like they belong, and just as importantly deserves the chances to reach their full potential. Risk taking is a natural drive for young people, and universal to all cultures and creeds! Kids will push boundaries to help them grow. That’s why by harnessing it, we can create a community for all.


Explore the benefits of facilitated risk-taking for children with disabilities and neurodiversity, emphasising inclusion and individual growth through programs like parkour and ninja training. It argues that traditional sports often fail to accommodate diversity effectively, isolating participants rather than integrating them.

  • Facilitated risk-taking helps children understand emotions and transform them into success.
  • Movement programs like parkour prioritise personal growth over conforming to strict sports rules.
  • Traditional sports often segregate rather than integrate, lacking emotional and cognitive support.
  • The “Dignity of Risk” should be accessible to all, allowing for personal challenges and learning from failures.
  • Risky Kids programs aim for two-way integration, celebrating individual achievements and fostering community belonging.

Risk Is For All : Neurodiversity, Disability and Belonging

Facilitated risk-taking can inclusively empower individuals with disabilities or neurodiversity.

  • Barriers in mainstream activities hinder diverse community participation.
  • Removing barriers enriches communities with diverse contributions.
  • Facilitated risk-taking celebrates individuality and teaches overcoming adversity.

When it comes to disability, neurodiversity and other challenges that families and individuals might face, there’s often barriers to participating in programs or mainstream activities. This is sadly common, even today.

However everyone has strengths to contribute to a community, and by removing these barriers not only does it mean that more people can access it, it also means that everyone benefits from having more awesome people be a part of it.

While it might not seem like the first place you’d look, risk taking, in particular facilitated risk taking, is one of the best ways to achieve this. It’s universal and accessible, and at the same time celebrates individuality and teaches everyone to overcome adversity.

Why Facilitated Risk Is Accessible

Facilitated risk-taking emphasises personal growth and creative problem-solving for young people.

  • Facilitated risk-taking enhances understanding of emotions and builds success strategies.
  • Success in risk-taking is about personal growth, not just optimal outcomes.
  • Programs like Risky Kids tailor activities to individual needs and creativity.

Of course there’s natural risk taking, which is important and healthy, but what’s even better is facilitated and guided risk taking. By facilitating risk, we can increase its constructive and positive impacts more quickly. We can help young people to understand their emotions and build strategies to turn them into success.

Risk taking is accessible because it prioritises problem solving and creativity. It doesn’t dictate methods of success, and it doesn’t focus on achieving the best outcome. It focuses on success and growth, which is individually defined.

Similarly, the success mechanics are very straightforward. Success feels strong and typically involves navigating an obstacle. Failure means you’ve probably fallen over/off something/bumped something! This is easy to understand, and doesn’t require specialised knowledge or experience, so learners can start learning right away!

Risky Kids was built from the ground up with this in mind. While we might use moves like Parkour and Ninja to explore this, beneath it is the core objective of helping each young person to find “Their Way”.

Movement Programs v Traditional Sports

Movement styles like parkour, ninja, and freerunning foster personal growth through risk-taking, in contrast to traditional sports.

  • Parkour and ninja focus on personal obstacles and varied success paths.
  • Traditional sports often isolate rather than integrate diverse participants.
  • Special leagues in traditional sports fail to foster true inclusivity.

The reason that we chose movement styles like parkour, ninja and freerunning to explore risk taking is because they’re about overcoming obstacles, both inside and out, and about the learning process.

The point of parkour is to find out and understand how your body moves, to become stronger by overcome obstacles, not to become strong TO overcome obstacles. Ninja teaches persistence and determination, and to find different ways to succeed and do whatever it takes.

The reasons that traditional sports like basketball, soccer, karate or gymnastics will often have barriers to them is because their objectives are based in the sport. The point of soccer is to be good at soccer above all else, following its rules. Along the way a young person might learn about teamwork and perseverance, but they must do it whilst playing soccer. It also means that the instructors first tools are ball drills and team mechanics, not emotional regulation or cognitive tools.

More often than not, traditional sports manage diversity by creating isolating, “special” leagues which require comprehensive adjustment to achieve participation. This unfortunately doesn’t achieve inclusivity and can exacerbate differences and isolation.

The Dignity of Risk

It’s important to reduce barriers for individuals with disabilities or neurodiversity to experience the dignity of risk, advocating for equitable opportunities to challenge themselves and learn.

  • Overregulation for “safety” can indignantly  restrict those with disabilities.
  • Equity in risk-taking opportunities is essential for personal growth.
  • Reasonable safety measures should balance benefits and risks effectively.

Those who have disabilities or neurodiversity are also often regulated in a way which can be undignifying. Each of us should have the choice and the opportunity to take risks, to challenge ourselves and to learn from mistakes.

To prevent those who have disability or neurodiversity from taking risks is to prevent them from having the same opportunity as the rest of us. In many disability leagues, this is often a large complaint from players! That too many restrictions are put in place for “safety”. Whilst safety is critical, it should be reasonable and achieve a benefit/risk balance.

It’s important in society to ensure people with disability or neurodiversity have the same opportunities for risk taking as the rest of us.

Overcoming, together

Mary’s Autism and Being Upset

I received a phone call one night after a class from a mum. Her daughter, Mary, had autism which would sometimes make socialising hard for her and navigating her emotions. The mum called and was frustrated that she had picked Mary up from class and that she’d been crying and upset. They left right away, so our team didn’t have a chance to talk with them about why.

Mary’s mum wanted to know why her daughter was crying and why the team hadn’t addressed or supported her through it. She stated the program was supposed to help young people build resilience, not to leave them upset. I let her know I took it very seriously, and that I’d speak with the team. However I also explained that not every session would be a triumph, and sometimes when learning and growing, things could be hard. I was confident the team would be able to shed light on it.

I spoke to the team, and they explained that Mary had been having a tough time in that class, and during one challenge another Risky Kid had told her she was doing something wrong. She hadn’t meant to upset her, just to try and help. This upset Mary, and the Coaches offered to help her, but Mary said she wanted to be left alone. The team will often respect this request from a child to let them calm down so long as their safe, and this is what they were doing, periodically checking in on her.

I called Mary’s mum the next day to explain this. Before I could though, she apologised to me. I’ll never forget what she said though: “I signed her up to a program called Risky Kids, and you told me sometimes it would be hard, but that didn’t make it any easier to see. I’m not sure why she was crying, but every other class she’s been to I can see the difference it’s making. I trust your team was doing what was best for her”.

This was something that left a permanent impression on me. Raising kids is hard at the best of times, raising children with disabilities or neurodiversity can be even harder. Not always because of their symptoms either, but because places and people will treat them differently and many families of children with differences will be let down again and again. Mary’s mum’s trust in us was something I was proud to have earned.

Of course I explained what happened as well, so this way we could all work together. Mary was fine the next class, and didn’t even feel she needed an apology. She continued through the program to the time of writing this, proceeding all the way to some of the most challenging levels of the program, mastering complex and challenging Moves and Mindsets.

Two-way Integration

Two-way integration in programs means focusing on individual and community growth through celebrating diverse approaches to success.

  • True inclusivity involves celebrating all forms of thinking and success.
  • Risky Kids programs emphasise personal achievements to showcase community values.
  • Two-way integration sees all members as integral, sharing diverse success strategies.

To achieve real inclusivity, you need to create two-way integration. What this means is not that you provide a place for those with differences to participate, or require them to behave or think the same way a neurotypical or able-bodied person may. Instead it means that you celebrate all thinking, all ways of success.

This is one of the most powerful features of Risky Kids and risk taking programs. By celebrating and focusing on exploration and risk taking, you focus on individual success. This means when people achieve success, their way, you’re able to point to it as a community as an example of your values and what makes someone a Risky Kid!

When this happens, everyone becomes valued for achieving growth their way. This isn’t to say we celebrate participation alone though. Effort must be success oriented, however that can look different for everyone. Once this happens, then it creates two way integration, meaning everyone sees everyone as part of the community and looks to one another for strategies for success.

At Risky Kids Clubs

Risky Kids is a community trained to support young people through challenges, emphasising the universal aspects of dealing with fear and anxiety to foster resilience and a sense of belonging.

  • Trained staff focus on physical, emotional, and cognitive challenges.
  • Viewing children first as individuals reduces the impact of their challenges.
  • Addressing universal emotions builds resilience and enhances feelings of belonging.

Our team are trained to help all young people to navigate challenge, from the physical parts to the emotional and cognitive components. They focus on celebrating effort and achievement, and ensuring everyone feels like they belong.

A key component of this is seeing each Risky Kid as a kid, before considering any symptoms they may have, whether it be anxiety, hypersensitivity or developmental delays. The fear, anxiety and frustration that can accompany facing challenges and navigating risks are universal, and by seeing this first and addressing it, it often means many of the challenges of disability or neurodiversity don’t emerge.

This creates a compounding effect, with young people feeling more resilient, more confident and like they belong. Something we all deserve.

Richard Williams

Richard Williams

Risky Kids Founder, Director of Programming

Richard Williams is a fitness industry consultant, gym owner, business coach and professional stunt actor with more than a decade of experience in the health and fitness industry. With an education in psychology and criminology, Richard blended life experience as a fitness industry consultant with Spartan Race, gym owner, elite-obstacle racer, ultra-runner and professional stunt actor to create the Risky Kids program.

Richard has a passion for enacting meaningful social change through all avenues of health and wellbeing and believes that obstacles are the way. Some of Richard’s key achievements include:

  • Key consultant/coordinator Spartan Race/Tough Mudder/Extreme Endurance
  • OCR World Championship Finalist –  Team & Solo (2015)
  • OCR World Championship Silver Medallist – Team Endurance (2018)
  • Professional film and television stunt performer for 15 years

Considered one of Australia’s foremost experts in the fields of fitness, wellbeing and behavioural science, Richard is frequently in demand as a guest speaker for relevant government and non-
government bodies and organisations. Speaking engagements centred on the success of the Risky Kids program, philosophy and approach have included:

  • Expert speaker/panellist Sports & Camp; Recreation Victoria and Outdoors Victoria forums
  • Closing expert speaker at the Australian Camps Association National Conference
  • Expert speaker at the National Fitness Expo, FILEX