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Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 16 December 2018

Make sports part of life for children with disabilities, say UAE Special Olympic coaches

Coaches say learning from playing games has a life-long impact

Parents should encourage children with intellectual disabilities to be interested in sports from an early age, coaches of the UAE’s Special Olympic athletes have said.

The journey will be challenging since parents will need to commit to frequently taking their children to clubs in different emirates that organise sports for people with special needs, but the benefits for young people are immeasurable.

Nadia Messiidi, a UAE national athletics coach, said getting children comfortable with activities outside the home will increase their confidence and help identify which sport is best suited for the child.

“Since the last few years there is a focus in schools to take care of people with determination and mix them with other children. Some schools also have specialists to help the children with sport,” she said.

Clubs for people with disabilities also organised specialise programmes. Still, it remains a struggle for parents to ensure that their children made it frequently to the camps.

A connection between the parents and coaches is also necessary so that the learning can be life-long.

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“More than talking about taking part in competitions, we have to first get them to come to the club. We have talent identifying programmes and each club has different programmes. When the child is very young you cannot know which sport he is good in so we keep working with them and let the parents know what we are thinking,” Ms Messiidi said.

“We start at the very beginning. Once they come to the club then the child can try all the different sports. Once we understand what the child is good at and the kind of sport he or she enjoys, then we can understand where to place them.”

She was confident that her current batch of athletes would respond positively to pressure in mega events due to their track record.

“Most of them have experience in competing. They have got medals,” Ms Messiidi said.

“Many of them are champions not only in the country but also outside.”

Explaining the enthusiasm levels of the athletes, she said, “For some it was difficult to leave home when they competed for the first time. Now they only want to know when the competition will start. They want it now. When we explain that it will start on March 17, they don’t understand so we just say the games are very near.”

The Special Olympics are held every two years and alternate between the summer and winter games. Los Angeles was the host of the 2015 Summer Games and Austria was the venue for the Winter Games last year.

The international event will come to Abu Dhabi in March next year, marking the first time in the history of the World Games for it to be staged in the region.