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Wednesday 15 June 2022 | Written by Sian Solomon | Published in Local, National


Making sports more inclusive one ‘rippa’ at a time
Autism Cook Islands have participated in Rippa Rugby. Photo: Supplied/22061410

Autism Cook Islands (ACI) has participated in a Rippa Rugby session held at Ngatangiia Field.

The recent session was held in collaboration with the Cook Islands Rugby Union (CIRU) and is part of ACI’s play therapy programme, which is designed for preschool to primary-age children.

Around 10 members from ACI participated in the programme which is running for eight weeks and is held on Thursday afternoons.

Lewis Tata, the Rugby Development Co-ordinator for the CIRU, and Craig Murray who is the Outreach Coordinator for ACI are running the sessions alongside Rugby Development Manager for the Cook Islands Rugby Union, Ben Koteka.

“I love seeing the smiles on the kids’ faces and the numbers growing every week,” Koteka said.

“Family is important and (we’re) just thankful for the opportunity to work with our kids.”

The play therapy programme is designed for preschool to primary-age children. Photo: Supplied/22061411

During the day, the participants focused on practicing and becoming more familiar with skills including running, ripping flags from the belt of the ball carrier, and passing the ball.

An hour was spent on the field, not only playing rippa rugby and practicing new skills but also learning how to manage themselves when faced with conflict.

Rippa Rugby is a safe non-contact, easy-to-play game for both boys and girls.

The programme is part of this month’s Autism events to promote awareness, acceptance and inclusion of people living with autism here in the Cook Islands.

Kat Jensen, Programme Manager for Autism Cook Islands, said she was thankful to CIRU for allowing them this opportunity.

Jensen said: “Rippa is great for our kids as the children are using their fine motor skills, learning teamwork and undertaking physical activity, but best of all its fun and exciting.

“We have (also) invited the Down Syndrome Association to join us.”