What does every child want? The chance to kick a ball, to throw it well, to share that success with family members. What does every child with intellectual disabilities want? The exact same thing.
Big Smiles. Two young girls from Special Olympics Hellas share a hug after a Young Athletes demonstration at the World Summer Games in Athens, Greece.
A Head Start
Young Athletes™ is a unique sport and play program for children with intellectual disabilities. The focus is on fun activities that are important to mental and physical growth.
Children ages 2 1/2 to 7 enjoy games and activities that develop motor skills and hand-eye coordination. Young Athletes is an early introduction to sports and to the world of Special Olympics. The children learn new things, play and have lots of fun!
Parents say their children in Young Athletes also develop better social skills. The confidence boost makes it easier for them to play and talk with other children on the playground and elsewhere.
A New World
Young Athletes starts everybody on the right track. The children learn skills and push their limits in a fun way. Family members and supporters see more of the children's abilities, not their disabilities. And everyone becomes part of the Special Olympics community.
A proud parent says Young Athletes has really made a difference with her son. "Brendan has changed physically and socially on many levels since he has participated in this program. He's jumping; he's running; he's hitting balls; he's running bases," she says. He's also "shown a lot of interest socially with his friends and with his typical peers. It's been an amazing program."
Young Athletes also works in many different places. Families can follow the program at home. Schools and preschools can use it as well.
Support and Inspiration
The Young Athletes program helps children all around the world, thanks to the support of The Mattel Children's Foundation, Toys R Us, Kim Samuel and the Lynch Family Foundation. Their help leads children with intellectual disabilities into a bright new world of sports and social skills, pride and possibility.
So far, we have brought Young Athletes to more than 50,000 children. We are working to double that number of Young Athletes in the next five years. For information and resources see our Young Athletes Toolkit
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