Alison Menzie had to drag her son Kai from the car park to his first session at Risky Kids Albury.
The 8-year-old, who is on the autism spectrum, is painfully shy about new situations, and has "severe ADHD".
But a psychologist had suggested Kai try the program, which uses movement styles like parkour, ninja, tricking and obstacle training to help build children's confidence, fitness and, most importantly, resilience.
The Risky Kids program, which was created by former stuntman Richard Williams, states its focus is on building mindsets through "risky play".
It's been described as "recreation with direction" and is accompanied by compelling mantras such as "failure isn't final" and "practice makes possible".
Kai started started the program a year ago.
"He was reluctant; petrified really," Alison recalls.
And the anxiety was initially compounded by Risky Kids' closed-door policy.
Albury manager Shannen Hocking admits that usually raises a few eyebrows at first.
"As parents we love our children, we see our role as supporting and protecting them," she explains.
"But we are also a barrier to our children; we want to stop them being uncomfortable, or scared, and that can be detrimental to their resilience."
That's why there's no parents in the Risky Kids training rooms, except for family nights or at some open days.
"We take kids out of their comfort zone, they can feel scared, they start to breathe fast, we push them and then we take them back to a safe space," Ms Hocking says.
"They learn to control their feelings, they learn to assess the safety of their decision making; is that risky or reckless?"
Every child goes at their own pace; and while it's a team environment, it's about realising your individual potential.
Alison has seen the difference in her young son in the past 12 months.
He's more keen to go out in the wider world, dragging Alison to parks where he can practise his moves "knowing he is quite good".
"Now Kai will assess a risk and say 'Oh no, I won't do that' or 'I can' and he'll jump from a huge height and land safely," Alison marvels.
After a few false starts and some trouble with group dynamics, Kai found his safe space at Risky Kids sharing a class with another young deaf boy.
That in itself has been another leap forward, according to Alison.
"Generally Kai doesn't tolerate difference; he might comment on skin colour, or if someone looks different ... but in the class the two boys get on well and it's been very encouraging to see something like that," she says.
But it's at school where Alison has noticed the most change.
Kai, who attends St Francis Primary School, Baranduda, struggles with listening, social skills and controlling his exuberance.
"We've seen huge improvement in class (when COVID-19 allowed) particularly from second term on," Alison says.
Shannen, who worked in corrections for 10 years and has a child with special needs, says watching the transformation in children like Kai is "totally cool".
"Parents are blown away; even in 3 to 4 weeks they see a difference," she says.
She actively encourages "neuro-diverse" children into the program; they currently have kids with autism, ADHD, cerebral palsy, and other special needs in the programs.
"It's a beautiful world to watch neuro-typical kids wait patiently for our boy with cerebral palsy to do his turn vault and then clap when it's done," Shannen says.
"There's learning from both sides."
Cassandra Cuttler's daughter Claire, 7, is in the Gutsy Girls program and leaves sessions with a beaming smile, her mum says.
Claire has been asked to leave dance classes before because of behaviours around her autism and emotional disregulation.
At Risky Kids she is learning to expand her comfort zone and to take risks in a safe way.
When things go a little askew, there's not the fear she won't be allowed to stay.
"With a smaller group size, the rapport is stronger and there is real encouragement to try activities and not end up excluded," Cassandra says.
"There are very few services that are actively inclusive of neuro-diverse children.
"Shannen goes above and beyond to find ways to include everyone."
Cassandra, who owns trauma, loss and grief counselling service Recovery Solutions, believes these programs should be expanded.
"If a child can have flexible thinking it helps them develop skills that build resilience," she explains.
The founder of Risky Kids believes "risky play" is essential to developing socially, emotionally and physically resilient young humans.
Somewhere along the line we've lost that; physical activity time is down, screen time is up - and with that has come a meteoric rise in mental health issues in young people.
Williams believes kids need the freedom to learn to exercise their critical judgement so they can better navigate adulthood.
"Something is already lacking in the lives of kids, and it's having a massive impact in our communities," he has written.
"Risky play has great power to restore the balance.
"By taking risky play and applying a strong structure, we can elevate it to the same lofty realms in which we hold organised sports.
"We all want our kids to be courageous, confident, sure of themselves and not afraid to take risks or to fail, however as a society we tend to hope this happens incidentally through other pursuits."
Shannen says the program has taken off like wildfire; numbers have swelled from 40 to 140 kids since she took over in April.
She's up-front with parents that there can be broken bones - a finger and arm to date:
"We have to let kids be kids - they need to learn to control their own risk taking and we do that in a safe space."
- An open day will be held November 14; for details go to the Risky Kids Albury Facebook page.