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  • How Personal Trainers and the NDIS are supporting people living with additional needs
By Adam Holding – PT National Learning Support
on Thursday, 2 August 2018
  • Personal Trainers
  • Fitness Industry
  • Learning
  • Health

The National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) is the new way of providing services to Australians living with a disability, as well as the families and carers who support them. Inclusivity into mainstream fitness services including personal training and small group exercise classes have become a developing way for participants to improve their fitness levels in a safe and nurturing social setting.

As fitness professionals and educators, PT National’s aspiration is that one day there will come a time when only one Olympics exists, as our future will hold witness when abled bodied and disabled athletes compete on one world stage.  This is the impact of the NDIS and we will support its purpose.

The NDIS supports people with disability to:

  1. Access mainstream services and support within the Fitness setting

These are the services available for all Australians including mobility, education, balance and stability, strength and body awareness that will assist participants with activities of daily living.  It also provides personal trainers the opportunity to recognise the importance of their role as a trainer, and how the attention to detail is expressed in each and every training session that is mutually beneficial to their client, professional development and fitness careers.

  1. Access community services and support

It is imperative that gymnasiums and fitness centres have the most suitable training facilities that support participants when exercising. This includes disabled parking, accessibility, ample space, lighting, access to gym equipment, and suitability of music and volume. 

This should be in an environment that is accessible for both trainer, parent and carer who can work together with and for the participant.

  1. Life of Contribution

Personal trainers are encouraged to build professional relationships with professional networks who support each NDIS participant. This may include: medical and allied health professionals, plan managers, carers, local area coordinators (LAC), and family members.

Selecting the right systematic process to your service delivery is imperative. You will need to discover how you will deliver your personal training sessions, along with their duration, location and time that meets the needs of your client. Furthermore, you will need to develop a systematic process that can be easily followed. This may include:

  • Consultation - Initial contact and enquiry
  • Research into their medical condition
  • Discovery and values alignment (NDIA self-managed or managed & associated fees)
  • Individualised fitness appraisal and goal setting
  • Confirmation of Service Level Agreement (SLA) and Session times/dates
  • Communication with medical and allied health professionals
  • Program Design
  • Facilitated personal training sessions commence
  • Re-assessment and modification to training program (fortnightly or monthly review)


Personal trainers have an imperative role in furthering their reach to people living with a disability, as the principles of fitness apply to everyone. The SIS30215 Certificate III in Fitness, and SIS40215 Certificate IV in Fitness courses contain particular units of study that focus on supporting special populations in a fitness setting including:

SISFFIT002 Recognise and apply exercise considerations for specific populations

SISFFIT015 Collaborate with medical and allied health professionals in a fitness context

SISXCCS003 Address client needs

When speaking with personal trainers currently supporting clients living with additional needs this is what they discovered since the inception of the NIDS on 1st July 2016.

  • The role of exercise progression and regression is an important aspect to training, no matter how small it may be
  • A clean and homely gym setting supports safe exercise
  • Music is an important aspect to a client’s needs and tastes
  • Weight loss is an important goal for adolescents living with additional needs
  • Social behaviour and capacity building are important aspects to a client’s needs
  • Attention to detail is a vital component to the explanation and demonstration of an exercise movement
  • Clear verbal cues with voice intonation are imperative modes of communication
  • Exercise must be fun and in partnership with the client and parent
  • Emotional regulation after heavy work (exercise) is a scientific fact
  • Hygiene must be considered throughout training sessions
  • Routine and patterns of behaviour are common traits among people living with a disability
  • Sensory and tactile traits are common amongst clients
  • Losing funding places financial and emotional pressures on parents
  • Maintaining flow throughout the training session achieves success
  • Diversion therapy really helps by directing attention to the frontal cortex and away from the fight or flight responses of the amygdala
  • Heavy work is part of a sensory diet to regulate the client’s nervous system
  • Some days you win and some days was one to learn from for next time.

Case Studies

Caleb is a 16 year old high functioning participant who is going into senior school.  He loves Cronulla Sharks and would love to play rugby league for them.  His ultimate goal is to perform the push-up.  His family exercise at home but they were concerned that they would prescribe him with exercises that may injure him.  His father wanted to be able to include him in fitness and was seeking the support of educated trainers suitable to Caleb’s needs and interests.  He is a self-managed participant and has a service level agreement where he trains one day per week, for half an hour, with a personalised fine motor skill, balance and strength program. 

Matthew is a 16 year old low functioning participant who is going into senior school.  He loves music and is in a dance group at school.  He is involved in the special Olympics where he is competing in ten pin bowling.  His mum’s goal is to manage the behaviour common to adolescents and believes supervised exercise is the pathway to achieving this goal.  He is managed through National Disability Insurance Agency (NDIA) and has a service level agreement where he trains one day per week with facilitated play, gait pattern when walking and gross motor skill program.

Author – Adam Holding

PT National Learner Support