Youth & Adaptive Sports

Young Athletes

This is an innovative sports play program for children ages 2-7 with intellectual disabilities and their peers, designed to introduce them into the world of sports. The benefits to this program have been proven worldwide. First and foremost, these activities will help the children improve physically, cognitively and socially. This program will also raise awareness of the Special Olympics program and serve as an introduction to the resources and support available within Special Olympics Florida families, agencies and schools.

Program Goals

This program is designed to address two specific levels of play. Level 1 includes physical activities focused on developing fundamental motor tracking and eye-hand coordination. Level 2 concentrates on the application of these physical activities through a sports skills activity program and developing skills consistent with Special Olympics sports play. The activities will consist of fundamental  sports skills, such as  walking, running, balance, jumping, trapping, catching, throwing, striking, and kicking.

Types of Programs

There are two ways the program may be offered.

  1. The Young Athletes program can be offered at home by a family member or friend. These volunteers become play pals on a one-on-one basis with their family member. This would be called a home-based Young Athletes program.
  2. The second option is offer a site program. A site program may be a school or agency such as a Parks & Recreation Department, Hospital, Daycare, ARC, UCP, YMCA, and Church, school or Camp. The agency agrees to offer the program under the name of Special Olympics Florida Young Athletes Program. A site program may also be under the direction of a volunteer approved by Special Olympics Florida who finds a donated site to conduct activities. Such sites might include but not limited to a church, community center, YMCA, playground, ARC, UCP, or Housing Development Community Room.

Both types of groups will follow all guidelines for the Special Olympics Young Athletes program. Group site must have at least 6 registered Young Athletes to begin a program as they will receive an equipment kit free of charge.

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Little ELITES

Little ELITES (Elementary Level Introduction To Entry-level Sports) is a sports program that bridges the gap between Special Olympics Young Athletes (ages 2-7) and competitive Special Olympics sports (ages 8+) concepts and models. The program is ideal for children in 2nd through 5th grade who have an intellectual disability (ID) or developmental disability (DD) diagnosis.

Why Little ELITES Is Needed

Special Olympics Florida offers an inclusionary sports play program for children who are between the ages of 2-7 called Young Athletes. We currently have 12,000 Young Athletes participants involved and the program is continuing to grow.  As children age out of Young Athletes, there can be a lack of Special Olympics Florida sports opportunities for children who are in grades 2-5. This is where Little ELITES comes in! Through Little ELITES, children who age out of Young Athletes can continue to work on their skills in specific sport(s) through structured school-based means of participation and eventually compete within the community. Ultimately, the goal is to keep young children and their families engaged in the Special Olympics Florida support network for life.

What is offered through Little ELITES

Schools can sign up for the following sports:  Soccer, Athletics (Track and Field), Flag Football, and Basketball. Special Olympics Florida provides everything that is needed to run the program. This includes a training on the materials, full kits for each sport, a sports activity guide, and t-shirts and ribbons for a school-hosted Special Olympics Florida Little ELITES  sports day!

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Motor Activities Training

The Motor Activity Training Program (MATP) is designed for those athletes with severe disabilities whose physical and/or behavioral limitations preclude participation in traditional Special Olympics team and individual sports competitions.  The emphasis in MATP is on training and participation rather than competition.  MATP seeks to improve the athlete’s basic motor skills in the following areas: dexterity, striking, kicking, manual wheelchair, electric wheelchair and aquatics.

Athletes participating in the Motor Activity Training Program must be registered as Special Olympics Florida athletes (medical & release forms) or as a School Roster Program.  Training Programs are established based on the individual needs of the athlete.  The program utilizes goals, short-term objectives, task-analyzed activities, assessments and teaching/coaching suggestions for individualizing motor activity instruction so that people with severe disabilities can participate in appropriate activities geared to their ability levels.  Training and participation are done onsite.

In school settings, MATP can help physical education teachers integrate students with severe disabilities into regular physical education classes in activities including warm-ups, conditioning, gymnastics and track and field through the use of partial participation and game modifications.  After completion of a training program, a “training day” can be held which provides each athlete a chance to demonstrate his or her personal best in an activity and be recognized for his or her accomplishments.  MATP challenge ribbons and medals are awarded for personal bests during training day activities.

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