The Young Athletes program also connected with Gymnastics Australia in helping to run the program, for children aged 2-8 years old. It is available to those living with or without a disability and is flexible in its nature.
The program is based on fundamental movement skills and is focused on introducing a wide range of different sports for young children to see what they may be interested in pursuing.
Speaking to the National Young Athletes Program Manager, Naazmi Johnson, she emphasised a major focus of the program is to instil those important social skills, with activity cards, encouraging the children to ask for help when they need it and understanding what it means to regulate your emotions.
“The benefits of sport are so big, these fundamental skills can help them in their everyday life. Often children living with a disability don’t get that opportunity.”
What Young Athletes also focuses on in their program is ensuring the space where the children are taking part in their sporting activities is inclusive for everyone, having both children living with a disability working alongside those who are able-bodied.
The benefits of the Young Athletes program mean that children are able to continue to develop their skills in the comfort of their own home as well as in the Special Olympics facilities and schools.
This allows parents to be able to work with their children and implement what the children are learning into their everyday life.
To see the Young Athletes at Home program, click here.
When asked what she hopes for the future of the Young Athletes program and for Special Olympics in general, Naazmi highlighted the focus was on ensuring these opportunities for children living with a physical or mental disability are available and that they have the choice to transfer to different sports in the program, as they grow, develop and find their passion.
Naazmi says the overall aim of the organisation is inclusivity and she noted “the gymnastics program and the coaches involved are keen to be more inclusive, they just need to know where to start.”
Sessions for the Young Atheletes program in 2022 will be rolled out in Terms 2-4 of the school year and will generally run for 8 weeks within the school term.