Special Olympics Ontario
Carly Bryden has been a Special Olympics athlete for more than 10 years.
“I have a younger brother and an older brother, and they are both sports nuts. So of course, I had to compete too. That’s when my parents signed me up for Special Olympics.”
Over the years, Carly has participated in soccer, bocce, basketball, baseball, rhythmic gymnastics and swimming. Not only has competing with Special Olympics given her the opportunity to keep up with her brothers and join in her family’s love for sport, it has also given her a thriving social network that has been critical to her development and emotional well-being.
When the pandemic put a pause on Carly’s in person Special Olympics programming, it left her with a large gap in her network of support and daily routine. She participated in virtual programming and kept up with her friends online, but it was not the same.
After more than two years without her daily routine of going to work and Special Olympics, Carly has developed a level of anxiety that impairs her ability to communicate verbally.
“Her doctors aren’t sure why Carly has lost the ability to speak, but believe it could be caused by the anxiety of the last few years and the loss of her routine. She can still communicate with us through lengthy text messages – which we are grateful for – but she cannot find the words through speech. We are hopeful that now that she is back to Special Olympics and seeing her friends, her words will come in time,” shares Carly’s father, John.
Carly has now returned to her regular activity with Special Olympics and although still working to redevelop her speech, is ecstatic to be back with her friends.
“This new research shows what we already know through lived experience, that Special Olympics has a direct impact on not only the physical, but mental and emotional well-being of every athlete involved.”