Special Olympics Sport Ireland and Inclusion C Lub

Coaching Children with a Disability

with Declan O'Leary Jon-Paul St. Germain and Ken Black

It’s clear - everybody can benefit from being active. Our job in youth sport is to both provide opportunities and encourage involvement. In relation to the participation of young people, the involvement of those with disabilities in sport lags behind the curve of the general population. The ICOACHKIDS Global Movement calls for each child and teenager to ‘develop a love for sport’ (Pledge Principle 5). This includes children and teenagers with disabilities. 

In the below presentation, Jon-Paul St. Germain of Special Olympics and Declan O'Leary of Sport Ireland examine the barriers those with disabilities face (personal and in the local environment). They then look at realistic, practical supports that can be used to address the barriers. While everyone can support the inclusion process, the role of the coach can be pivotal in both providing a positive movement experience and in encouraging the development of a sense of belonging in the individual.

The above presentation is also available to view with audio in SPANISH, FRENCH and GERMAN.

Ken Black of The Inclusion Club has also offered some practical insights into how we can support children with a disbility in sport and physical activity.

Let us know your thoughts in the comments below


Declan O Leary

Declan O'Leary

Declan has worked in coach education, supporting national governing bodies in implementing the Coaching Development Programme for Ireland and developing coach education awards. More recently he has worked in coach development, focusing on coaches at grassroots and how to systematically support them in their learning. This includes developing learning environments/culture, short learning inputs, reflecting on personal practice, engaging with mentoring and being part of communities of practice. He is the lead for Sport Ireland in disability sport andcoaching people with disabilities. He is a co-founder of ICOACHKIDS.

Jon Paul St Germain

Jon-Paul St. Germain

In his current role as Vice President of Sport Development for Special Olympics International, Jon-Paul is responsible for overseeing Special Olympics sport development globally. This work includes advancement of Special Olympics coaching framework, the development of partnerships with international sport federations and the global expansion of the inclusive Special Olympics Unified Sports® program. The Special Olympics Unified Sports program brings together people with & without intellectual disabilities as team-mates & competitors on the court —paving the way for social inclusion on and off the field of play.

Ken Black

Ken Black

Ken has worked as a practitioner in the area of inclusive physical activity and disability sport for over 40 years. This has included 10 years working in special education, 2 years for a disability sport organisation (UK Sports Association for People with Learning Disability), 6 years as a disability sports development officer for Leeds City Council sports development team, 6 years as the Inclusive Sport Officer with the Youth Sport Trust (the UK-based national youth sport agency), 3 years as Sports Consultant with the Australian Sports Commission, (working in the Disability Sport Unit), and 2 years setting-up a research and development centre on disability sport at Loughborough University. He works independently as an advisor and consultant (previously in this role from 2008-2013). His most recent position was as inclusion advisor & senior lecturer at University of Worcester (2013-2018). During this time, he chaired the Organising Group which planned and hosted the European Congress of Adapted Physical Activity at the university in July 2018. Ken authored (January-March 2019) some new video and activity resources for both Youth Sport Trust and LimbPower for use on their websites.


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