Saturday sport with Young Athletes
Saturday sport is an Australian way of life.
It means many different things. Early mornings. Busy carparks. Competition. Healthy play. Taking part in Saturday sport usually means connection and fun.
But for children with intellectual disabilities and autism, and their families, mainstream sport doesn’t always mean fun.
It can mean exclusion and isolation.
Clare and her family were looking for safe, inclusive sport to have fun, play and connect with friends.
Jack, Clare’s 11-year-old son, is on the autism spectrum.
Jack doesn’t fit into Saturday sport like everyone else, and along with his younger brother and sister, miss out on all the enjoyment and benefits.
Photo: Jack and his sister playing together at Young Athletes.
“We really wanted to find a place where we fit in. There was a complete lack of options for families with young children with special needs.
We can be a difficult family to include as Jack has difficulties with social interaction, behaviours, and how he experiences environments. Mainstream sport isn’t an option for our family.
We found Young Athletes with Special Olympics Australia about 7 years ago and it’s the only thing that works for us.
Here, we can all come along as a family.
Jack and his brother and sister can all play together and it’s very welcoming, safe and non-judgemental. Young Athletes is the only family thing that we do together.
It’s two-hours on a Saturday afternoon that our family needs.
The coaches and volunteers are excellent. They understand our needs and treat us with care, warmth, and understanding. They are a special group of people helping to support us in ways that we need and helping the kids have fun and spend a lot of energy.
We really feel like we belong here.”
Clare, from Sutherland.
Young Athletes is an early childhood play program for children with and without intellectual disabilities. With inclusion at its core, families can attend, so brothers and sisters can play together.
The program introduces basic sport skills like running, kicking and throwing and has the flexibility to add lessons and training to customise learning and skills. Importantly, the program evolves as children age and develop skills and build confidence.