Special Olympics Canada offers child and youth programs designed to help children with an intellectual disability develop basic motor skills and sport skills through fun and positive movement experiences. Special Olympics promotes opportunities to develop physical fitness, demonstrate courage, experience joy, enhance skills and create friendships.
Active Start, along with FUNdamentals, is one of two initiatives developed by Special Olympics Canada for young athletes. Active Start is a family-centred activity program for children with an intellectual disability ages 2-6. Through the program, children learn basic motor skills such as walking, running, jumping, balancing and throwing in a fun and safe environment. These skills provide support for everyday activities as well as a base for Special Olympics sports training and competition as athletes grow older.
Age: Two to six
Priority: Active participation for fun, development of physical literacy
Objective: Develop play skills through movement and daily physical activity
Skills: Walking, running, jumping and balancing, throwing, catching, kicking, striking etc.
The rationale behind Active Start is that when children with an intellectual disability receive early instruction in basic motor skills and have the opportunity to experience ‘play,’ there is improvement in their physical, social and cognitive abilities. Active Start provides lessons for young athletes to learn about running, kicking, throwing and jumping, and then builds on these experiences from the program by providing parents/caregivers with educational information and resources that allows them to participate in similar activities in the home environment.
Benefits of the Active Start Program for participants
• Substantial and improved development of physical, cognitive, and social abilities.
• Introduction of positive social experiences through fun play activities alongside peers.
• Development of self-esteem and a sense of belonging.
• Opportunities to transition into other year-round Special Olympics sport programs, and to continue a lifelong love of sport.
Benefits of the Active Start Program for parents and caregivers
• Education for parents/caregivers about the value of sport in the lives of their children.
• Education in nutrition, basic motor skills, and the Special Olympics organization.
• Opportunities for parents/caregivers to expand their networks and support systems.
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