While regular participation in sports has its benefits, such as boosting fitness levels and giving an adrenalin rush, it also helps inculcate ‘sportsman spirit’. However, for children and adults with intellectual disabilities, the benefits of sports go much beyond this.
Parents and coaches of such children say that dribbling a basketball, making brisk strokes in water or even sprinting a few metres gives them a “high and boosts their confidence levels”.
Vouching for this is Mariamma, a homemaker and mother of four children with intellectual disabilities. Although it was tough to groom her children, Mariamma, far from showing remorse or regret, was extremely proud her their achievements, who have won several medals in various competitive sports. “My children were shy and reserved. But after playing sports, there was a phenomenal improvement in them. They now mingle with others and are more independent,” she said.
These young athletes are fielded for several tournaments by the Special Olympics Bharat – Karnataka which is recognised by the Sports Authority of India (SAI) and by the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports. The organisation provides them a platform to participate in State, National and International Sports Competitions.
Ravindra Kumar, parent of 23 year-old Santhosh Kumar said that playing competitive sports and travelling to various places for camps helped Santhosh socialise and pick up new skills. “For 15 years, I tried to teach my son how to tie a shoe lace. After he went for a seven-day volleyball camp in Pondicherry, he came back and tied his laces perfectly. That was one of my happiest moments,” he remarks.