Student Andrew Fletcher who has been working on rolling a ball goes for goal with the help of Johanne* Dodsworth
Student Andrew Fletcher who has been working on rolling a ball goes for goal with the help of Johanne* Dodsworth

Specialist College students become athletes for a day

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Students at Henshaws Specialist College in have been getting an insight into what it takes to be an athlete.

Many of the students have complex physical disabilities and special educational needs and they have been working on their abilities through a Special Olympics programme to help them improve their motor skills.

The programme, delivered by Henshaws staff, culminated in a Motor Activity Training Programme (MATP) Challenge Day where students demonstrated what they had learned and how their abilities had improved.

Cameron Gilchrist has been learning to crawl on all fours
Cameron Gilchrist has been learning to crawl on all fours


Henshaws Principal Adrian Sugden said:

Our students face massive challenges in making their bodies work to the best of their abilities and we have seen some huge progress through this programme. In some cases, this can be as apparently simple as learning to kick a ball but for the individual student this is a major triumph!

Kaitlin McNulty gets her balance with help from Chloe Lynskey
Kaitlin McNulty gets her balance with help from Chloe Lynskey

MATP is funded through the Youth Sport Trust partnered with the Special Olympics and provides genuine opportunities for training and competition for people with profound multiple learning disabilities and complex needs. Opportunities are realistic and tailored to the individual. It focuses on the abilities and enables athletes to work and showcase motor skills and sporting achievements that are relevant to the individual.

The Challenge Day at Henshaws was led by the Lead Inclusion for North Yorkshire for PE for the Youth Sport Trust, Fran Nichol, with MATP National Development Officer for Special Olympics Great Britain Angela Lydon.

Geena Blythe is exploring different sizes of balls with Fran Nichol
Geena Blythe is exploring different sizes of balls with Fran Nichol

It began with a parade of the athletes and an opening ceremony at which they recited the Special Olympics Athletes’ oath – “Let me win. But if I cannot win, let me be brave in the attempt.”

Fran Nichol said:

MATP Challenge Days provide a great opportunity for students to demonstrate the skills they have been developing over a period of time. On the day the students were athletes, they were given the opportunity to be the centre of attention with everyone in the room watching and celebrating the achievement no matter how big or small.

We cannot underestimate the work and commitment from staff at Henshaws to implement and embed MATP in the curriculum. This is just the start of embracing the amazing opportunities which are available through Special Olympics. Who knows, Henshaws College could have athletes competing at the Special Olympics Summer Games held in Liverpool 2021.





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