By Andrea Phillips
NATIONAL SCALE up of an innovative program to ensure all Australian children gain ability and confidence in primary movements that help them to be active and healthy has gained momentum through grant funding.
A Queensland Gambling Community Benefit Fund grant will fund 20 Special Olympics Australia Young Athletes programs at gymnastics clubs, schools, and other community venues in the state.
Around 200 children aged two to eight will be able to take part in the all-abilities programs free of charge.
Over a series of play-based sessions, specially trained coaches will teach children movements they will use in sports and daily life, such as running, jumping, throwing, and catching.
The programs will also give children who experience developmental challenges the chance to develop the social skills they need to be active with others.
- Naazmi Johnston, Special Olympics Australia’s
National Young Athletes Manager
Families will be given resources to encourage play at home and information about other inclusive programs, so children can continue developing their skills and social connection.
Special Olympics Australia’s National Young Athletes Manager, Naazmi Johnston, said: “Young Athletes equips children to be successful in the next step on their sporting pathway and motivates them to stay active throughout their lives.”
Being physically active benefits people’s physical and mental health at all ages, and insufficient physical activity is a key contributor to the national disease burden.
Yet only 17 per cent of Australian children aged two to five are meeting the national Physical Activity and Sedentary Behaviour Guidelines, and 72 per cent of Australians with a disability are not active enough for their age.
Intellectual disability affects 208,800 Australian children, making it the leading disability type.
Special Olympics Australia designed Young Athletes to boost the health of young children who experience challenges developing movement and social skills and are frequently less active than those without disabilities.
Program partners Special Olympics Australia and Gymnastics Australia have run programs for hundreds of participants in NSW, the ACT, and Victoria during a pilot stage that began in mid-2019.
Special Olympics Australia strives to ensure that everyone living with an intellectual disability can participate in sport. We provide:
Nationally, Special Olympics Australia has around 7,000 program participants, 1,120 volunteers and 47 grassroots clubs. Eleven clubs are located across Queensland in Brisbane, Bundaberg, Gladstone, Gold Coast, Gympie, Ipswich Lockyer Valley, Logan, Mackay, Moreton North, Redlands, and Sunshine Coast, serving 687 athletes.