Schools understanding disability through sports partnership - Avenues Group
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Schools understanding disability through sports partnership

Tuesday 21st of August 2018

The annual Royal Hospital School (RHS) and Avenues Games in Ipswich, is a chance for those supported by Avenues in the East of England to mix with their local community through adapted sports and activities. It also provides an opportunity for young people in the school to learn more about autism and learning disability, put this into practice and take that knowledge with them into adult life.

World Cup fever took over the RHS Avenues Games this year as teams dressed as France, Australia, Spain, Brazil and of course England paraded onto the immaculate lawns of the Royal Hospital School playing fields to the sound of the School brass band.

The annual event has been hosted by the Royal Hospital School in Ipswich for the last 16 years with the aim of students engaging with the local community. Assistant Head Clive Rennison, who organises the games explained: “(…) it really opens their eyes to a wider world (…).  Some of the students have contact with siblings or extended family with disabilities but the majority don’t, so for them this is really valuable.”

In the days prior to the games, Avenues gives the students awareness training on autism and learning disability in order to understand more about the people  it supports. Sixteen-year-old Ellie saw it has something that would benefit her out of school as well as at the sports day “I’m more aware of different disabilities and if I see something in the street which is maybe a bit unusual I’ll have more understanding of it, I think before I might have been a bit wary and cautious”.

Steve James, Chief Executive of Avenues, believes the games are a great example of how people with learning disability can be involved in their communities. He said: “It enables the students who often haven’t

had any contact with people with disabilities in the past, to understand a bit about disability but also to use it in a practical way with people enjoying themselves and that’s part of Avenues attempt to ensure that people are citizens in their local areas and that people who live locally understand about disability issues as well as specialist organisations like us”

For those who are supported like Andreas Johnson or ‘AJ’, who’d played every sport from basketball to football, clearly the interaction is hugely beneficial “It’s just meeting new friends and being part of a team”.

The day ended with the ‘French team’ as the jubilant winners. But as organiser Clive says one of the long term successes is the knowledge and experience that is taken away from these games both by Avenues and the students “I know we have a lot of ex-pupils working in support or community work and this I believe is a kick start for them thinking along those lines”.

RHS games