The Why

Fight4Balance was born to improve the lived experiences of youth with functional and intellectual disabilities (FaID) and their families – to champion access to structured, group physical activity through adaptive and functional fitness programs – to provide an inclusive platform for these young men and women to experience success however small – to grow a community of like-minded peers of all abilities around them to support and mentor their socialisation into adulthood – to bring together an informed team of practitioners, ambassadors and leaders from medical, allied health, academia, corporate, performing arts and sport who are impassioned in advancing the functional health and wellbeing of these youth – to help the families of youth with FaID survive and thrive together.

Studies have shown youth with FaID lack the typical recreational and physical activity experiences compared to their mainstream peers; and are particularly at risk of chronic health problems, such as obesity, due to a combination of poor dietary habits and their non-participation in regular fitness or organised sporting activities.  Lack of regular physical activity typically leads to decreased muscle strength, higher body mass index and other obesity values.  Similar health concerns have been reported across disability categories, including cerebral palsy, Down syndrome, and autism spectrum disorders.  A combination of factors including social isolation from peers, limited organised sporting activities, and medical limitations have commonly resulted in youth with FaID being observers of sports rather than participants. These factors contribute to poor social and health outcomes for individuals with FaID; resulting from fewer opportunities to develop friendships and engage in a healthy lifestyle.

Research also shows that aggression is clearly associated with negative outcomes for youth with FaID; including social relationships, placement in restrictive school residential settings, use of physical intervention, and increased risk of being victimised.  Aggressive behaviours commonly contribute to negative outcomes for parents/caregivers of youth with FaID, including increased stress levels, financial problems, lack of support services and negative impact on day-to-day family life and wellbeing.  Addressing aggressive behaviour is therefore pivotal to improving outcomes for adolescent youth with FaID, their families and caregivers.

Siblings of youth with FaID generally experience an array of stressors and feelings that can increase their risk for significant emotional and behavioural problems and functional impairments.  For example, siblings may feel anger or jealousy and resent their brother/sister being held to a different set of standards and receive what appears to be preferential treatment.  Siblings are often asked to help out or take on extra household chores, potentially increasing resentment.  Youth with chronic FaID often require costly services meaning parents may not have enough money to meet the needs or wants of siblings.  Moreover, parents often spend the lion's share of their time with their affected child at the expense of their sibling.  A brother or sister may feel neglected because much of their parents' emotional energy is directed toward the affected sibling, leaving little emotional energy for the other children in the family.

Siblings may also feel guilt over being resentful or frightened towards their affected brother or sister.  Some may also experience a "love/hate relationship" with their brother or sister.  Others may be embarrassed about the behaviours and appearances of their affected sibling, to the extent that they may claim to be an only child or avoid inviting friends over.  Guilt can motivate siblings to hide their own feelings so as not to further burden their parents. Or they may feel the need to "be perfect" to compensate for their sibling's perceived imperfections or the stress the sibling's disability is putting on the parents.  Often the sum total experience means siblings suffer silently.[1]

[1] All references, quotes and citations available upon request.