Specialist College students become athletes for a day

A group of Specialist College students, many of whom have complex physical disabilities and special educational needs, have been taking part in 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.

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!”

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 Fran Nichol who is funded to deliver MATP as part of the Youth Sport Trust Lead Inclusion School network with MATP National Development Officer for Special Olympics Great Britain Angela Lydon.

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.”

Find out more about Henshaws Specialist College and what we offer for young people with SEND.

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