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Circus therapy experiences

You can find out about the experiences of Kai, Max and Archie—3 boys who participated in Unthink the Impossible, a circus program offered by Flipside Circus.

Kai's experience

Keith Armstrong and his partner, Julie, introduced their son, Kai, to circus classes after finding he wasn't enjoying 1 on 1 therapy.

"He wasn't as motivated as there weren't any other kids," says Keith. "Circus has been great—it's a lot of fun. He can interact with other kids and learn circus skills."

Kai, 6, has left-sided hemiplegia, a form of cerebral palsy. His favourite activity is an obstacle course that includes stacked chairs, a ladder and other props.

"I like the obstacle course," says Kai. "That's my best thing."

Here, Kai shows how he completes the course—navigating the ladder before twisting his way through a tunnel.

You can also watch Kai practising a mobility exercise as part of a class.

Video transcript

Flipside Circus trainer Alyssa Venning is sitting cross legged and is helping Kai Armstrong practise an exercise where he holds a prop in each hand and moves his arms in a circular motion.

Max's experience

Max Lyons, another class member, has Crisponi syndrome—a rare syndrome that means Max does not sweat, which limits his ability to exercise in warm environments. Max also has weakness in his upper body and low muscle tone. Max has tried gymnastics before, but experienced some difficulties as the class became more advanced. His mum, Jenny, enrolled him in the circus program so he could improve his physical skills at his own pace.

"He gets to tell them (the trainers and occupational therapists) what he wants to do," she says.

"He's a bit kamikaze... he wants to tumble and kick balls."

Here, Max tests out aerial tissues, or tissu—hanging upside down from fabric as a trainer looks on. 

You can also watch Max practising hula hooping as part of a class.


Video transcript

Occupational therapist aide Danica Lindstrom practises hula hooping with Max Lyons as part of a class for the Unthink the Impossible circus program.

Archie's experience

With his sister, Ella, Archie Woolcock Whyte also participates in the supported group classes.

Archie's primary condition is an undiagnosed white matter disorder, where there is insufficient myelin in the brain. He also has autism spectrum disorder and multiple other health issues, including epilepsy. Archie also has a pacemaker for the management of a heart condition.

His mum, Camille, has supported Archie in every way she can—coming to his aid when he has needed emergency assistance, including adrenalin after experiencing allergies.

"I've revived him (kept him alive with assisted breathing)—6 times. EpiPen®s have also saved his life," says Camille.

The family have received assistance through the Better Start for Children with Disability initiative (Better Start) for Archie to participate in the program.

"We've been able to access some really good therapy funding," says Camille. She believes Archie and Ella have both benefited from the classes in different ways.

"Archie has gained motor planning skills, muscle tone and engagement skills, and he's improved his upper body strength," says Camille.

Ella, assists as a helper with the classes. She has experienced anxiety with Archie's ongoing health issues, but enjoys seeing how Archie fits in with the group.

"She's not as anxious as she is seeing him gain positive skills," says Camille. "She loves her brother very much."

Support for siblings

If you are a sibling and you'd like support or help, you may like to visit Siblings Australia's websites for Primary Aged Sibs and Teen Sibs. You can also call Kids Helpline on 1800 551 800 to talk to someone about how you are feeling.

Kai Armstrong

Kai Armstrong steps along a raised horizontal ladder that is part of a circus obstacle course.

Kai takes his time moving along a raised horizontal ladder while an occupational therapist aide watches, ready to help out if needed.

Max Lyons

Max Lyons hangs upside down from tissu—special fabric that is used with acrobatic routines as Flipside Circus trainer Pitisi Hatcher looks on.

Max Lyons hangs upside down from tissu—special fabric that is used with acrobatic routines.

Archie Woolcock

Archie, 6, and Ella, 9, sit on a trampoline with Mikayla, an occupational therapist aide, after participating in a class for the Unthink the Impossible program at Flipside Circus.

Ella and Archie sit on a trampoline with Mikayla Eggins, an occupational therapist aide that assists with the Unthink the Impossible circus program.

Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 3.0 Australia (CC BY-ND 3.0)
Last updated:
4 February 2015
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