Tri Star Disability Gymnastics Programme

Anna RobertsonAuckland-Northland, e-News, Recreational Gymnastics, Regional

In November 2016, Leigh Dawson from Canada was employed by Tri Star to run a Disability Gymnastics programme. Leigh has gained a lot of experience in disability gymnastics in Canada working with children with all kinds of autistic spectrum disorders, behavioural problems, ADHD and visual and hearing impairments.

In the space of a 10-minute interview, Leigh provided a huge number of tips and ideas on how to work with children with special needs. One of these tips was to engage with the parents and find out which words they use and which words they have learned that don’t work with their child (e.g. a specific word might aggravate the child). Then to use this information to ensure that when you work with that child, you are speaking “his or her language”.

“Leigh provided different techniques to coach my semi-verbal son… She has also dealt with his non-compliance behaviour while coaching in a very positive way and made him successful in the session. She possesses a very friendly nature where any kid would love her.” – Ruksan Karim – Vancouver, Canada.

“My daughter Cassie has had private gymnastics sessions with Leigh for the past two years and it has been a wonderful experience. Leigh takes Cassie through all the stations and they work on various moves and skills. They have worked on strength, balance, coordination and flexibility, as well as skill development. Leigh is gentle yet assertive and very skilful at sensing her students’ personality and developing a rapport that makes the experience enjoyable for both of them. Cassie has developed a lot of skill and has enjoyed gymnastics tremendously under Leigh’s guidance.” – Carol Humphrys – Vancouver, Canada.

At Tri Star Leigh gives children in the programme an opportunity to learn gymnastic skills in a personalised setting, while also improving coordination, strength, balance and motor skills. With this personalised approach she is able to adapt to any age or ability and create a class around the athlete’s individual needs and goals. The classes are a great way to build self-confidence and physical literacy in a fun and safe environment. Athletes progress at their own speed and have a lot of input into their desired training outcomes.

The main goal is to provide support and inclusion within the gym in order to help all young people have a fun, engaging and successful experience, and to gain social skills alongside their physical literacy. Tri Star is providing Disability Gymnastics to 8 children already.

Imogen (pictured above) was born blind.  Her mother says that, because of her disability, she hasn’t been playing running games and other strengthen and conditioning games. This has meant that she has less core strength and coordination than children with full vision. The Disability Gymnastics Programme gives Imogen the opportunities to gain the strength and the skills needed, to help her catch up with her peers.

Leigh Dawson workshops and club visits

Leigh works fulltime at Tri Star but makes herself available outside her working hours and during school holidays to run workshops for a Club or group of Club,s who want to know more about offering gymnastics for children with disabilities.


Funding for children with physical disabilities within this programme has been made available through the Halberg Trust. Find out more about funding opportunities with the Halberg Trust on their website.

For athletes with intellectual disabilities, Tri Star provides a different funding model. The funding partners include Sport Auckland and Tri Star Gymnastics fundraising through a GiveALittle page.