A new surfing program in Western Australia has been set up at the Perth Children’s Hospital. The program involves helping children who have chronic health problems to enjoy the beach, ocean and fresh air instead of only being confined to a hospital bed.
The program involves teaching kids to surf to boost their physical and mental health and is now a permanent strategy of the hospital, after the pilot proved successful, where they found that surfing had positive outcomes for children with cystic fibrosis. The program is open to children and adolescents with type 1 diabetes, cystic fibrosis, burn injuries, arthritis, and post-sarcoma injuries.
The surf lessons have acted as a form of physical therapy for many of the kids, which means they don’t have to spend so much time in hospital. Families have observed that coming down to the beach and exercising in the outdoors has been an exciting experience for the kids as opposed to the stress that is involved in regular hospital days. Many family members have also been able to participate in the program with their children which has made it even more beneficial for the patient and family as a whole.
The surfing program started after the senior clinical psychologist at PCH, Joanna White, taught herself to surf. The patients work with the same instructor, which helps them build a therapeutic relationship in order to meet their treatment goals. White says that kids who suffer from these chronic conditions are often less likely to engage in team sports or physical activity, so this is also a way of helping them become accustomed to physical exercise again and making sure they are alright to do it.