Special Olympics BC youth programs: starting off on the right foot

Special Olympics BC Active Start program
Amazing activities and supportive energy in Special Olympics BC's Active Start program!

Special Olympics BC is committed to providing children and youth with intellectual disabilities opportunities to develop vital sport and motor skills through three low-cost programs. These programs are meant to get participants moving and introduce a love of sport and exercise in a positive and supportive manner.

There are three core SOBC youth programs:

Active Start is a 12-week family-centred activity program targeting children with intellectual disabilities between the ages of two and six. Through the Active Start program, children learn basic motor skills such as walking, running, jumping and throwing.

FUNdamentals is a continuation of the Active Start program for children between the ages of seven and 11, with the skills transitioning from basic movement skills to basic sport skills. The family-centred program provides children with a more in-depth introduction to sport-related motor skills along with training and competition, while maintaining an atmosphere of fun and meaningful interaction.

Sport Start is designed to give athletes between the ages of 12 to 18 years their first taste of an organized, sport-specific training program. Sport Start also provides information about the game being played including the rules and history of the sport, promotes proper nutrition and social network building, and acts as a source of information about other programs and opportunities provided through Special Olympics BC.

Currently there are 75 SOBC Active Start, FUNdamentals, and Sport Start programs running in communities around the province, where children from two to 18 are able to gain vital motor skills, develop healthy habits, and work on their social relationships with other participants and volunteers.

Athletes sharpening their soccer skills at the SOBC – Kamloops Sport Start program.
Athletes sharpening their soccer skills at the SOBC – Kamloops Sport Start program.

Cora Siytangco is the mother of two Special Olympics BC – Vancouver athletes – Ramon is a successful swimmer who medalled at the 2018 Special Olympics Canada Summer Games, and Michael who has participated in FUNdamentals and is also starting to get into the traditional sport programs. She says, “It is important for us to find activities and organizations that are supportive and inclusive. Physical activities are not just for physical health, they continue to help our sons’ social and emotional development.”

The reality is that many children with intellectual disabilities feel isolated or left behind in traditional sport and activity programs. SOBC empowers these individuals and gives them the opportunity to develop in a supportive environment where success is defined by participants. The pace of progression is not dictated by a program plan; instead, individuals are encouraged to progress at their own pace and have fun in a supportive environment.

By starting early, children and youth with intellectual disabilities can develop the confidence and fitness levels to move on to traditional Special Olympics programs if they desire. Siytangco says, “SOBC youth programs provided the essential sport skills that helped [my son] learn and enjoy other sports.”

While the programs are athlete focused, they also provide parents and caregivers with a chance to develop a social network where they can share resources and support with others.

Special Olympics BC is also working with schools to create more in-school Special Olympics programs for children and youth with intellectual disabilities. These opportunities mean that student-athletes with intellectual disabilities have the chance to experience the joy of sports while being celebrated by their peers in an inclusive environment. The physical, social, and cognitive benefits are crucial to the development of Special Olympics athletes, both in a sport setting and as they continue on in life.

Smiles all around at the SOBC – Burnaby FUNdamentals program.
Smiles all around at the SOBC – Burnaby FUNdamentals program.

Since these programs take place at school, it also creates an educational and awareness opportunity for the general population with regards to individuals with intellectual disabilities, showcasing their talents and inspiring attitudes. Schools can offer Special Olympics BC’s core youth programs, or the growing school sport competition opportunities led by 3-on-3 basketball. Please click here to read more about SOBC school sports.

Siytangco says, “We are grateful for Special Olympics. Special Olympics is a continued blessing to our family. We have met exceptional volunteers and coaches and they are our model to increase awareness that kids with intellectual disabilities are capable.”

SOBC youth programs are a great way to introduce children with intellectual disabilities to the power and joy of sports. The skills learned in these programs create a strong foundation for young athletes to build upon and ensure a holistic approach to the development of their physical, emotional, and social wellbeing.

Sincere thanks to the Government of Canada, the Government of British Columbia, Tim Hortons, the Samuel Family Foundation, The Slaight Family Foundation, the GoodLife Kids Foundation, and the Hamber Foundation for supporting SOBC’s youth programs and opportunities throughout B.C.



Benefits for participants

  • Substantial and improved development of physical, cognitive, and social abilities
  • Positive social experiences through fun play activities alongside peers
  • Development of self-esteem and a sense of belonging
  • Opportunities to transition into other year-round SOBC sport programs offered in 55 communities around the province and continue a lifelong love of sport

Benefits for families

  • Education in nutrition, motor skills, and the Special Olympics organization
  • Opportunities for parents and caregivers to expand their networks and support systems
  • Education for parents/caregivers about the value of sport in the lives of their children


To find out more

Please contact Helen Cheung, SOBC Sport Manager



Or contact the SOBC Local in your community.