“The first time Milo came he told me he was nervous and did not think he could do it. I told him I would help him and he agreed to try.
When it came time to jump from one dot to the next, down a line, I helped him on one side and a volunteer on the other. Milo jumped successfully down the line.
He broke into the biggest smile I had ever seen and pride just radiated, illuminating the entire gym. I looked over at his parents and they were beaming with tears in their eyes. In that moment, I thought to myself, “this is why we are here. This one family’s experience makes everything worth it.” The great news is that we get to experience a Milo-like moment every week.”
Developing Skills for Success
Young Athletes™ is an innovative sports play program for children with intellectual disabilities, ages 3-7, designed to introduce them to the world of sports, prior to Special Olympics eligibility at age 8. The program focuses on the development of fundamental physical skills and the application of those skills through general fitness and recreational activities.
Created in consultation with the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey, the activities foster cognitive and social development, muscular strength, hand-eye coordination and balance. The Special Olympics Kansas (SOKS) program offers two levels of participation. The level one “Motor Skills” clinics focus on the development of motor skills and hand-eye coordination for participants, ages 3-7, while the level two “Little Feet” clinics teach children, ages 5-7, how to apply those physical skills through participation in soccer, track and field, and group exercises and activities.
In addition, Special Olympics has published a new guide for families with young children with intellectual disabilities. “Realizing the Bright Future of Your Child with an Intellectual Disability” is especially valuable for families soon after they get the news that their child has an intellectual disability. The 28-page PDF guide outlines treatments, therapies, supports and services that can help a child with ID reach their potential throughout their life. Download this great resource here.
YOUNG ATHLETES CLINICS
Introduced in 2009 in the Metro area, the program has expanded statewide. We are always looking for potential families to be involved, volunteers willing to be trained to facilitate clinics in their region, and sites to host the Young Athletes™ Programs..
Offered in one hour, family friendly sessions; parents and younger siblings are encouraged to participate. The activities are designed to be used by parents in the home or a preschool/school environment, with a playgroup or in a one-on-one situation. Young, intellectually disabled children who participate in the Motor Skills clinics are provided an activity kit, along with user friendly instructions, to take home and continue working on their skills with their families.
The clinic activities consist of:
- Foundational Skills
- Walking & Running
- Balance & Jumping
- Trapping & Catching
- Advanced Skills
Full details of the activities are available in the Young Athlete™ Activity Guide. Click on this link to view videos of the activities.
Special Olympics Kansas is excited about this program that builds confidence and brings families together while introducing them to the world of Special Olympics. One parent shared the tangible benefits:
“The Special Olympics Young Athletes program has been a blessing to our family. It has been a beneficial program for not only our special athlete, but our 3 other typical children. We are the Couturier Family and we have four children. 7, 5 1/2, 4 (our special athlete with Down syndrome), and 2. Needless to say, we are a busy family! All of our children had a great time. Our special athlete was able to learn skills, watch and model his peers, as well as keep up with the other special athletes. Our typical children learned patience and understanding as they played alongside the other athletes. The leaders and volunteers are patient, knowledgeable, and kind. We were very happy with our experience and are looking forward to continuing our journey with Special Olympics. Thank you for your generous support of this much needed program.”
In addition, the program works towards the following objectives:
- Raising awareness about the abilities of children with intellectual disabilities through inclusive peer participation, demonstrations and group activities;
- Providing children with intellectual disabilities developmentally appropriate play activities designed to foster physical, cognitive, and social development;
- Promoting social development through group activities;
- Developing muscular strength and endurance through repetitions, hand-eye coordination, and balance;
- Providing an experience that will lead to an appreciation of fitness, and sport for the whole family; and
- Welcoming family members of children with intellectual disabilities to the Special Olympics network of support.
If you are interested in learning how to get your Young Athlete in a program or in hosting a Young Athlete program in your city, contact Chris Burt at firstname.lastname@example.org or 913-236-9290 x107.