How Sports Can Help Kids With Special Needs

In recent months, some have lent a hand to those whose education has been affected by the Covid-19 pandemic. Ministry of Adventure (MOA) would like to spread awareness about the disadvantaged and underprivileged community, as well as how we can support them through sports.

Last month, our Founder, Evelyn Chew was interviewed by Penny Choong from Penny Essentials via live streaming on Facebook with the parents of children with special needs to discuss how sports can support their children.

Special needs is an umbrella term for a wide array of diagnoses, from those that resolve quickly, to those that will be a challenge for life and those that are relatively mild to those that are profound. It covers developmental delays, medical conditions, psychiatric conditions, and congenital conditions that require accommodations for children to reach their potential

In case you missed it on Facebook live, fret not - we have a transcribed version just for you. Read on!

1. Thank you for taking the time to join us today, Evelyn. Could you tell us a little about yourself and MOA? Hi, I'm Evelyn! I'm a part of the 2nd Generation in my family business, and I manage my own sports media company, Ministry of Adventure (MOA), as well.  Before I joined my family business, MOA started out as a sports community back in 2014, during my university days. It was born out of a passion and the intention of encouraging people to get together to participate in outdoor sports. I recall a particularly fulfilling moment whereby one of the participants back then broke her life record and expressed her gratitude to me. She participated in a 10km hike that took place locally, and at the age of 50, unexpectedly completed the hike despite not having walked such a long distance before. So, that was how MOA started with a variety of sports.  Fast forward to today, due to Covid-19, we've transformed to being a sports media and marketing company, to connect sports businesses with sports lovers. Apart from that, we also provide a MOA Rewards loyalty programme to our sports community.

2. I understand that you have specially designed activities catered to children requiring special attention. Could you tell us more about it? Yes, we do! At MOA, we've come up with a sport climbing programme for special needs children, and we usually receive referrals from our friends or business associates. We have worked with the Down Syndrome Association and Mountbatten Vocational School in Singapore - special schools for children with autism, dyslexia, down syndrome and other conditions that require special care.  Personally, I think that climbing is a sport that does not require the managing of a huge area - you just need a wall. It is also a sport that trains coordination, confidence, courage (3C) and focus. Furthermore, it isn't a fast-paced sport, and it encourages the children to focus on themselves.

3 .What inspired you to create such activities? Personally, I enjoy seeing people transform from someone who has a fear of heights to someone who has conquered his/her fears at the end of the session. It is especially heartwarming to see a positive mental shift in the students, as well as them having more courage than before. Bonus points when my students can climb better than me!  I genuinely find it meaningful when my students experience a positive impact on their lives, and it’s also touching when they remember me as their teacher - even greeting me on the streets when we happen to bump into each other. While others may have doubts that children with special needs can climb well, I strongly believe that they are able to climb equally well, if not even better, than other children. With a little more patience, compassion and support from the people around them, children with special needs can be independent individuals in society.

4 .What were your findings? How did it impact the children?

Initially, I didn’t know what to expect when I received projects to teach special needs children. I felt that the teachers were very kind and optimistic, so I carried on with trust and faith.  Over time, I found out that it was not that easy as they require a lot more patience and assistance. Sometimes, they will yell, cry and want to give up at the very beginning due to fear. I could see that the parents were really worried. Yet, they still pushed their children up the wall, with the intention of encouraging their kids to overcome the mental obstacles.  I was very moved by their dedication towards their children, and I tried to help by making it as fun as possible by putting a chicken that squawks at the top to motivate them, as well as giving them lots of encouragement to get them to believe in themselves.  After some reflection, I realized that it’s really about giving them patience, trust, and faith, despite them not believing in themselves initially. With the right energy, these special needs children will respond accordingly to the encouragement. It was a very tiring, but extremely rewarding experience.

5 .Do you have any other suggestions regarding sports for children with special needs? Yep, I do!  Firstly, it is important to find the right fit for children with special needs. Not every sport will be appropriate, or safe, for children with special needs. For example, ice hockey and basketball – fast-paced team games that involve physical contact, good hand-eye coordination and on-the-go communication with teammates – may not be the right sport for every child with developmental delays. For children who have lower motor or communications skills, an individual endeavor, while being part of a team, like swimming or karate, might be best.  Secondly, be creative - work with them to find out what catches their attention and motivates them. Lastly, keep it short and sweet - their attention spans are often short, and they get tired easily. Ensure that instructions are succinct, and that multiple breaks are provided.

6. Thank you so much for your sharing. How may parents contact you if they wish to find out more?

Parents may find out more about us by direct-messaging me through my Facebook account at Evelyn Chew. They may also direct-message Ministry of Adventure through Facebook alternatively. In the event that I don't reply fast enough, my team will help to follow up with their messages. Even though I'm in Singapore most of the time, we have online programmes and partnerships with the local gyms, as well as the gyms in Malaysia. I’m able to reach out to my partners in Malaysia to support you, for families residing in Malaysia.