Imagine a 7-year-old child, unsure, introverted and afraid to speak up and ask to play with other children. Now imagine that same child, happy, active and laughing as he runs around the playing field with his new friends.
Introduction to the World of Sport
Through Young Athletes, volunteers introduce young children to the world of sport, with the goal of preparing them for Special Olympics sports training and competition when they get older. The program focuses on the basics that are crucial to cognitive development: physical activities that develop motor skills and hand-eye coordination, and the application of these physical skills through sports skills programs.
Improved social skills is another inspiring reason parents enroll their children in Young Athletes. The confidence boost makes it easier for them to interact with other children on the playground, whether or not they have intellectual disabilities.
Reports from parents are encouraging, and the science looks promising, too. Special Olympics commissioned the University of Massachusetts to conduct a study of Young Athletes pilot sites to learn more about the program’s benefits. Preliminary findings suggest that participation in Young Athletes may lead to improvements in motor development, social and emotional development and communication development.
Sponsoring Organizations Make It Possible
Thanks to the support of organizations like Mattel, the Lynch Family Foundation and the Gang Family Foundation, Special Olympics is now able to welcome young children with intellectual disabilities and their families to a world of physical activity, social development, pride, and community. To date, we have brought Young Athletes to more than 10,000 children in 21 countries. But with 200 million people worldwide with intellectual disabilities, including children, there is a need to reach so many more.