The NeedSport project: Bringing sport to children with special needs
NeedSport aims to bring sport to children with special needs, and is an international Erasmus+ project funded by the European Commission between 2018 and 2021 (Key-action 201. Cooperation for innovation and the exchange of good practices: Strategic partnerships for school education) through the National Erasmus Agency of Slovenia.
With the coordination of Ljudska Univerza Rogaska Slatina (from Slovenia), the project includes 9 more partners, namely Osnovna Sola Rogaska Slatina and Elio Artic s.p. (Slovenia), Osnovna Skola Josipa Matosa and Prime Osijek (Croatia), 1st Special Primary School of Patras (Greece), Gdnya Sports Centre (Poland), IES La Puebla (Spain), and the Association for the Development of Youth Sport and the University of Coimbra (Portugal).
The main goals of the project are:
- To foster the involvement of children with special needs within sports activities
- To provide education and training to teachers and coaches
- To promote a stronger connection between local sport clubs and organizations that work with children with special needs.
The project has two main intellectual outputs: a didactic handbook for teachers and coaches and an Android application. Both resources are linked and will contain material about the positive effects of sports on children with special needs, showing concrete examples and ideas about which sports activities are more suitable to each kind of special need.
The main reason for creating this didactic handbook is the need for a useful tool for teachers, sport facilitators, parents and other people that work with children with special needs, in order to help them in the process of integrating these children into sports activities.
The handbook has two parts. The theoretical part presents information on the positive effects of sports, the advantages of inclusion, myths and mistakes about inclusion, capabilities and disabilities and inclusion strategies. The practical part includes examples of sport exercises addressing different disabilities, according to different sport categories.
These resources aim to promote the advantages of inclusion as extensive and positive to everyone who is involved in the process.
Indeed, it is well known that inclusion can contribute to a better world. Although, the way to reach it is full of barriers. Some of these barriers are just simple common mistakes and myths (which are clarified throughout the handbook), but others are social, economic and human barriers, which must be broken down.
The concepts of barriers and facilitators are treated in the handbook according to the International Classification of Functioning, Disability and Health (ICF). Other concepts are also overviewed, like those related to body functions, body structures, impairments, activities and participation.
To understand inclusion and put it into practice, focus needs to be on the individual characteristics of every child, to analyse through a developmental approach of their abilities and difficulties. Rather than focusing on the child’s diagnosis or difficulties, we need to carefully observe what they are capable of doing.
The diagnosis itself does not define a child or their abilities, because within the same diagnosis there are countless different realities and situations. On the other hand, children with different diagnoses may have similar difficulties and abilities. Thus, the objective is to facilitate an evaluation to find suitable activities in which children can use their skills.
With the purpose of helping the reader, the handbook also includes several strategies for inclusion, divided by areas: cognitive, communication, motor, social and behaviour areas and sensorial processing.
In the second part of the book, exercises focused on strategies to overcome some of the difficulties are identified. In this chapter, the strategies proposed are in line with the theoretical information previously given.
With the purpose of involving the parents of these children and improving their awareness about the need for including their kids in sport and its benefits, we have also suggested strategies to support the communication between teachers/coaches and parents.
This project hopes to help teachers, coaches, parents and others in improving their knowledge and their skills for the inclusion of children with special needs in sports activities in a proper manner. We hope to launch the handbook publicly soon.
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