#YoungAthletesAtHome and #PlayAtHome for children with disabilities

With the support of UNICEF, the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Sports and Youth, the Special Olympics is launching the #YoungAthletesAtHome

Specijalna olimpijada Crna Gora i UNICEF
Special Olympic
UNICEF Montenegro / Duško Miljanić / 2017
13 May 2020

PODGORICA, 12 May 2020 – With the support of UNICEF, the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Sports and Youth, the Special Olympics is launching the #YoungAthletesAtHome (#MladiSportistiDoma) campaign and is joining the #PlayAtHome (#IgrajSeDoma) campaign to support the parents of children with disabilities aged 2–8 to encourage their development during the period of suspension of the work of kindergartens due to the global COVID-19 pandemic.

“Through this initiative, we are enabling parents to take on the role of Special Olympics coaches in their homes. We were the first in Europe to launch the implementation of the “Young Athletes at Home” programme and we hope that other national Special Olympics programmes in the Europe/Eurasia region will follow our example,” points out Ivan Radović, director of the Special Olympics in Montenegro.

Special Olimpics
UNICEF Montenegro / Duško Miljanić / 2017

For UNICEF, providing support for every child to exercise the right to education and the right to sport is a priority at all times, especially during times of crisis.

“Crises such as the global COVID-19 pandemic do not affect all children equally. Unfortunately, children who were vulnerable before the crisis are even more vulnerable now. That is why UNICEF’s priority is to provide support to the most vulnerable, and among these are certainly families with children with disabilities,” says Michaela Bauer, Acting Head of the UNICEF Office in Montenegro.

Special Olympics International has accredited Young Athletes programmes in more than 130 countries around the world to provide opportunities for children aged 2–8 with or without intellectual disabilities to improve their motor, cognitive, and socio-emotional skills.

“As a result of the Young Athletes programme, an improvement of over 30% has been noted in children’s motor, cognitive and socio-emotional skills. We believe that this information is enough to motivate parents to continue exercising with their children at home until the crisis caused by the coronavirus passes,” says Radović.

Special Olympic
UNICEF Montenegro / Duško Miljanić / 2019

The Special Olympics will provide the necessary sports equipment and educational materials for the parents of children with disabilities to continue to carry out the sports and recreational activities of the Young Athletes programme at home. Videos of the exercises will be posted on the social networks of the Special Olympics, UNICEF, the Ministry of Education, and the Ministry of Sports and Youth using the tags #YoungAthletesAtHome (#MladiSportistiDoma) and #PlayAtHome (#IgrajSeDoma). Through this initiative, the #PlayAtHome campaign will obtain an inclusive dimension.

“Children with disabilities are additionally vulnerable now, because they are deprived of going for regular treatment (physiotherapy, somatopedics, physiatry), as well as other forms of physical activities, socializing, and exchanging experiences. Therefore, the exercises offered to parents for them to practice at home have a positive effect on the child’s general state of health, emotional state and behaviour. However, what is even more important is that this will strengthen the child’s self-confidence and emotional connection with their parents, brothers and sisters,” points out Tamara Milić from the Ministry of Education, noting that, according to Ipsos’s research, most parents are following the #PlayAtHome (#IgrajSeDoma) campaign and are finding it useful and interesting.

Special Olympics
UNICEF Montenegro / Duško Miljanić / 2017

For the Ministry of Sports and Youth, this initiative is key to providing support for the development of every child in Montenegro through sports and recreational activities.

The Special Olympics packages for parents, which will be delivered to their home addresses, contain video materials with the instructions, sports equipment, and other equipment needed to carry out the planned exercises. Through this initiative, 240 parents from seven municipalities of Montenegro will be organizing 48 half-hour exercise sessions with their children, three times a week for a period of four months, and all the other parents will be able to join in thanks to the publication of the recordings of these sessions on social networks using the tags #YoungAthletesAtHome (#MladiSportistiDoma) and #PlayAtHome (#IgrajSeDoma).