|Special Olympics is an organisation.
They organise sports activities for people with intellectual disabilities.
These activities take place in all countries of Europe.
People with disability and people without disability take part
They can make friends and learn new things.
Special Olympics is an international organisation that supports the inclusion of people with intellectual disabilities in society through participation in sports. Since 1968 they organised numerous trainings and athletic competitions every year to encourage children and young people/adults with intellectual disabilities to experience the joy of sports and develop friendships and mutual understanding with others in non-formal environment. Their programmes ‘Young Athletes’ and ‘Unified Sport’ gave opportunity to many children and adults in Eurasia Region to actively develop their physical abilities.
Young Athletes Programme engages children of age 2-7. They have an opportunity to develop their motor and cognitive skills through a simple enjoyment of a physical exercise. Each year, many countries join the programme, involving several hundred children in the programme. In Portugal where children with intellectual disabilities attend mainstream schools, Young Athletes involved 200 children from the beginning of the project. Louis Peixoto, teacher collaborating on the project shared his experience: “It was very gratifying to work with such a dynamic team and a group of motivated children. Inclusion of children with intellectual disabilities in regular classes is a plus for everyone. Children with intellectual disabilities learn with colleagues and help create moments of friendship, develop social values and increase autonomy.” Other successful example comes from Malta, where Anne Marie Bugeja, a Maltese Young Athlete and now a gymnast of Special Olympics, became a coach at the Young Athletes programme. Anne Marie assists children during the exercises and motivates them and their families to carry on the exercise.
Unified Sports bring together children and adults with and without disabilities to compete in sports activities. The programme supports the skills that people with intellectual disabilities need to participate socially, such as mutual trust, communication and social capacities. In Israel, Special Olympics organised a five-day summer camp providing inclusive opportunities to play basketball and football for children from special and mainstream schools. Through the activities, children had an opportunity to build a sense of belonging to the community.
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