Help for special athletes

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Special Olympics screen pupils

MEDICAL ATTENTION: Volunteer medical staff assist a pupil with the Healthy Athlete Screening project run by Special Olympics South Africa at Khayalethu Special School in East London at the weekend Picture: SUPPLIED
MEDICAL ATTENTION: Volunteer medical staff assist a pupil with the Healthy Athlete Screening project run by Special Olympics South Africa at Khayalethu Special School in East London at the weekend Picture: SUPPLIED

NINE special schools from around the province gathered at Khayalethu Special School in North End this past weekend for the Healthy Athlete Screening project for children with intellectual disabilities.

The screenings were hosted by Special Olympics South Africa.

Healthy Athlete Screening is an initiative that takes place annually in South Africa in at least four provinces.

The screening offers free health services and information to athletes in dire need of medical attention.

In the process, Special Olympics has become the largest global public health organisation dedicated to serving people with intellectual disabilities.

The event was a success thanks to the help of medical specialists, physicians and professionals in dentistry, optometry, podiatry, physiotherapy, general practitioners and audiometry. These individuals offered their time, skills, efforts and services at no cost towards helping athletes with disabilities.

Special Olympics South Africa CEO Ancilla Smith said they operate in 180 countries globally and in all nine provinces in the country and service about 50000 athletes.

Sport is at the core of the organisation, but because they are a development organisation, there is a huge focus on various other initiatives of which one is health.

“We believe that in order for our athletes to compete effectively, they need to be healthy. At an event like this, we bring in the help of professionals,” Smith said.

“We have 70 volunteer professionals who screen all our athletes. We do six disciplines, so when they come here we test: healthy hearing (audiometry), special smiles (dentistry), eyes (optometry), fit feet (podiatry), med fest (general medical check-up) and fun fitness (physiotherapy) and if we pick up any problems during the screening, the doctors refer them to get medical attention from their nearest health facility,” Smith said.

The Special Olympics Healthy Athletes programme was initiated 15 years ago to address both the causes and effects of poor health outcomes in society through free health screenings.

One of the provincial coordinators, Pila Mgole, said they are promoting healthy communities and also help young athletes between two and eight years-old.

“Involvement of a parent is paramount because when we find a problem with the athlete through the screenings, we tell the parent and with their consent, we refer the child,” Mgole said.

Visit www.specialolympicssouthafrica.org for information on how to volunteer your time or money to Special Olympics.

 

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