The Community Builder Toolkit for Family Leaders, Section 6: Engaging Families of Young Athletes is intended for family leaders, Board Members,

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1 The Community Builder Toolkit for Family Leaders, Section 6: Engaging Families of Young Athletes provides Power Point presentations, sample materials, templates and guidance for family leaders (both staff and volunteers) to develop strategies for engaging families of young athletes. Note: This section builds on information provided in: Section 1: Orientation to Family Engagement Section 2: Planning for Successful Family Engagement Section 3: Welcoming Families Section 4: Family Volunteer Recruitment Section 5: Promoting Healthy Lifestyles 1

2 The Community Builder Toolkit for Family Leaders, Section 6: Engaging Families of Young Athletes is intended for family leaders, Board Members, Program staff and key volunteers. The objective of this section is to provide tools that will support family leaders in outreach and engagement of families of young athletes. Key information includes: Young Athletes program Benefits for families Key concerns for families with young children Outreach strategies 2

3 Family engagement and support is a cornerstone of strong Special Olympics Programs. In many Programs family volunteers organize events and fundraisers; work at home with athletes to help them be healthy and train at home; serve on the Board; help each other through the Family Support Network and more. There is much more they can do to support better opportunities for athletes if we match each families interest with Programs. We need family volunteers in all these areas. However, the strategic plan challenges us to focus on developing family leaders who help build communities of support, especially for families of young athletes. Training families as Community Builders and making sure our trained family leaders reach out to engage families of young athletes is the organization s priority. The early years of a child s life is a critical period for families with young children who have disabilities to find support and resources for both their child and themselves. It is also a time that they seek to learn what role they can play to improve their children s lives and Special Olympics.

4 The 3 goals for Young Athletes are important to understand. the program includes a goal for children, one for families, and one for the community. It has proven to succeed in helping children develop sports skills that are also important life skills, in linking families to Special Olympics and in raising awareness about what young children with disabilities can achieve. 4

5 Young Athletes is a sports development program for 2 7 year olds that uses simple equipment, activities, games and songs. The program can be used at home, in schools and in the community. It focuses on helping children learn and practice the fundamental motor skills needed for sports in 8 areas: Foundation Skills Walking and Running Balance and Jumping Trapping and Catching Throwing Kicking Review of Skills as Sports When children at this age are involved in any program, it is natural for families to be very interested and involved. It was developed with families in mind, making it an easy to implement at home and include siblings, neighbors and friends. In school and community settings families can also be the leaders or helpers who make the Young Athletes programs possible for many more children, including both those with and without disabilities. 5

6 Young Athletes is not just a sports skill program. It makes a difference during the most critical early childhood development stage of life. The gains children make in this period affect their lifelong success and inclusion. Benefits of the program include significant motor development for children who participate in a full 8 week program. Those included in a recent study gained an equivalent of 7 months motor development during this time, while others who did not participate only gained the expected motor development for the two month period. Not only that, but families learn to play together and feel more confident about their young athlete s potential. Children gain social skills as well as significant motor skills. Parents and siblings learn to play and have fun with young athletes. Family expectations are raised as they see young athletes demonstrate new skills. Discuss experiences that the group has had with the program. Ask: What do you think makes Young Athletes a social skill development program as well as sports skill development program? How might siblings be engaged to play at home? 6

7 What do you think family expectations for children diagnosed with developmental delay or intellectual disability might be during early childhood? What difference might being involved in the larger Special Olympics program and seeing athletes compete, speak and volunteer might make? 6

8 Discuss with a partner what you remember about learning your child had intellectual or developmental disabilities or what other families have shared with you. What do you think is the most important way Special Olympics might offer hope? Share some of the stories and insights with the full group. Summarize: Let s talk a few minutes about the concerns that families of young children with disabilities often have and how your Family Support Network can recruit and support them in this critical time. Denial that their child may have an intellectual disability is a common and normal reaction. Social stigma causes shame, humiliation and isolation for many families. Parents, especially mothers may blame themselves based on misconceptions, myths or lack of understanding. Family members want factual information about the causes, early intervention available and future possibilities for their child s development and learning. 7

9 Now let s talk about the role that trained family leaders have as community builders with the Young Athletes program. You can: Lead a Young Athletes program Recruit young athletes and families through parent organizations and community agencies. Build strong Family Support Networks that include families of young athletes. Provide FSN activities targeted to this group Promote more opportunities for young athletes Role Play Ask for two volunteers to role play for 3 minute scenes One volunteer will act as the family leader and the other is a parent who has a young child with a disability. The family leader should help the parent know more about Young Athletes and offer support and encouragement as the parent expresses her concerns about the child. Repeat with two other volunteers. Then discuss: What were some of the messages that were helpful? How else might a family leader explain the program? What else might a parent need to hear to decide to enroll in Young Athletes? 8

10 What type of programs would be most helpful for your FSN to offer additional information, support and encouragement? Summarize: Family leaders are powerful recruiters for Young Athletes You have natural connections in the community. You can relate to other families, offer a listening ear, hope and information through your family support network or family programming. By participating in the Young Athletes program these families gain hope, learn to support and advocate for their child, and gain an understanding of what Special Olympics offers the community. Young athlete families who become engaged early will be more ready to be coaches, volunteers and family leaders later. Yet, just 8 weeks of programming will not fully engage these families. More opportunities need to be available and family leaders can promote these new opportunities working with Special Olympics Program leaders to meet the need. 8

11 We need more trained family leaders to serve as community builders to reach young children and their families. Luckily, grants are available to help Special Olympics Programs recruit and train new family leaders in this role. These grants generously funded by Kim Samuel and the Samuel Family Foundation require the trained family leaders to take lead roles in promoting, organizing and/or coaching Young Athletes programs. To apply for grants, Programs have to commit to recruiting and training at least 2 families as community builders who will support expansion of Young Athletes and the Family Support Network. In addition, programs must use the Young Athletes Curriculum to offer at least 8 weeks of lessons for a minimum of 50 children. In addition, the Family Support Network must recruit the family members of these young athletes and include them in 2 or more family programs (e.g. Family Health Forum, EKS Family Day, Young Athletes Demonstration) 9

12 We know grants to Programs make a huge difference and encourage Programs to also become familiar with the Mattel grant funding. These grants help Programs offer Young Athletes in the community, host demonstration events and train for families. Many programs have had great success in engaging families with Young Athletes and bringing new families into their network at the same time as they focus on building Young Athletes programs with Mattel grants. Through the Global Partnership, we have been able to grow programs around the world. For example, Bolivia received a grant in 2011 to provide Young Athletes programming and family training that resulted in many important outcomes. Besides involving parents and siblings, other youth were involved in coaching the young athletes. They expanded the program greatly through partnerships and family involvement. They reported in 2011 a total of: 11 demonstrations 365 new Young Athletes 1,200 new family members 60 new partners, including Occupational Therapy students 30 sites for Young Athletes 10

13 Each Region has a staff member who works with Programs on developing Young Athletes and Family programs and provides grant applications as funding is available. With support from family leaders, we believe the grants will be even more successful. 10

14 Young Athletes gets families excited about possibilities. Once you have a Young Athletes program in place, you can take advantage of family enthusiasm and plan additional opportunities for them to be engaged. Ask participants to review one or more earlier sections of the Community Builder Toolkit for ideas of other activities that might be offered and targeted to these families. (e.g. Orientation to Special Olympics, invite to join Facebook and post young athlete photos, Healthy Athlete screenings for young athletes, Family Health Forums on topics of interest to preschool families) Point out that engaging families of young athletes does not require huge additions to family programs, but does require an organized Young Athletes program and family programming. 11

15 The e Library includes a full Young Athletes toolkit with user friendly tools to support expansion of young athletes, conduct outreach to encourage new families to get involved and show the activities to anyone who wants to learn to play with their child. Go to the e Library and demonstrate how to access the Young Athletes Toolkit. Then show a video clip from the toolkit. How might you use this video in your recruitment efforts? If families do not have online access, what other ways could you show them what the program is about? 12

16 Engaging families of young athletes is easily done when they see the program in action. Young Athlete demonstrations and workshops can be a starting point for further engagement in your family support network. You can also host training for families and teachers to use the tools that offer both school and home based activity guidelines. Once families understand the program, they can lead their child and siblings or neighbors in playing together at home. They can recruit teachers and therapists to offer group sessions in classrooms or the community. They can join with other experienced leaders to assist in leading group sessions. You can organize demonstrations and bring families, teachers, and therapists together to become acquainted with the opportunities. 13

17 The Young Athletes Curriculum is an especially valuable resource available online that: Builds on the shorter Activity Guide Provides 24 scripted Lessons to be offered over 8 weeks in group settings and at home Promotes family engagement in the program and at home Children participating gained significant motor skills 7 months measurable skills in 8 weeks The Community Toolkit for Family Leaders Section 7: Resources includes a full training for families to learn how to get started at home and another one for coaches who will offer the training for a group in school or the community. Discuss with the group how they might use the online tools for outreach and awareness and then follow up with training. What community partners might help? Is there a Young Athletes Coordinator on staff who could assist? What Family Health Forum topics might be offered to families enrolled in Young Athletes? 14

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