Special Olympics Young Athletes is a sport and play programme for tamariki (children) with and without intellectual disabilities, aged 2 to 7 years old. Young Athletes introduces basic sport skills, like running, kicking and throwing.
The programme offers families, teachers, caregivers and people from the community the chance to share the joy of sports with all children.
Children learn to share, play with others, take turns and follow directions. These skills help children in family, community and school activities.
"We definitely saw improvements in skills as the weeks went by - we appreciated that the kids were allowed to do some activities in their own style whilst also being encouraged to do certain things." — Parent of a Young Athlete.
Young Athletes is a fun way for children to get fit and learn healthy habits while they're young. This helps set the stage for a life of physical activity, friendships and learning.
Young Athletes involves:
Trying different activities
Participating in circuits for all abilities
Helping children explore activities
Joining in with siblings, parents and/or carers
Have any questions about the programme or would like to help with its roll out?
Young Athletes welcomes children and their families into the world of Special Olympics. The programme helps children get ready to take part in sports when they're older and can be a pathway into wider Special Olympics club activity.
Children with intellectual disabilities who took part in the programme were found to develop motor skills more than twice as fast as others who didn't take part.
"He was able to develop some good relationships with the coaches/kids and also get used to being with other children and interacting a little — these are big skills he was working on too!" — Parent of a Young Athlete.
Coaching support on this programme is provided by Special Olympics Athlete Leaders. These Athlete Leaders have themselves participated in Special Olympics, and are now putting their coaching and delivery skills into action.
Subject to funding, we're now ready to roll the Young Athletes programme out across New Zealand in 2020. If you have any questions about the programme or would like to help with its roll out, email RSCdirector@specialolympics.org.nz