Young Athletes programs bridging the gap towards Special Olympics

Jamie Bennett
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Debbie Murley, left, and Tara Power were among those who gathered at the Autism Society in Corner Brook Friday for an information session about Special Olympics programs. — Star photo by Jamie Bennett

As a mother of a five-year-old son with Autism, Anissa Bennett was eager to hear what the Special Olympics Young Athletes programs have to offer during an information session in Corner Brook Friday.

The session was held at the local Autism Society office and was conducted by Kimberly-Ann McDonald, outreach coordinator with Special Olympics Newfoundland and Labrador.

Friday’s session covered the Active Start program for children with intellectual disabilities from two to six years of age, as well as the FUNdamentals program for children between seven and 14.

The programs apply sport specific-activities with the goal of improving basic motor skills to help children develop social and physical skills through sport.

Eventually, many children will be able to use these skills and move on to other Special Olympics programs.

While there are currently no Young Athletes programs on the west coast, McDonald said if enough interest is shown, things could be implemented in Corner Brook and surrounding areas as early as September.

This would be good news for Bennett’s son Dylan, who already participates in a local gymnastics program for autistic children.

“He looks forward to going to that every week and this could be an extra thing for him,” Bennett told The Western Star after the session. “I like that they say they have ways of modifying the program so that anybody can do it.”

Like many autistic children, Dylan has a hard time following structure and listening to instruction. Bennett said these sports programs could go a long way toward making her son feel more comfortable socializing.

“The more things I put him in, the more he’s going to get out of it,” she said. “He may never have 100 friends but if he can have one or two good ones, if he’s out functioning in society, that’s what I’m looking for.”

For more information about the Young Athlete’s programs and the Special Olympics, visit



Organizations: Special Olympics Newfoundland and Labrador.Friday, Autism Society

Geographic location: Corner Brook, Western Star

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