The DSActive programme is designed to provide as many opportunities as possible for people with Down’s syndrome to be active and healthy. DSActive was created in response to the awareness of the sedentary lifestyles of many children and adults with Down’s syndrome and the subsequent health problems, including obesity, resulting from lack of exercise and participation in sport.
DSActive is a programme for people with Down’s syndrome administered by the Down’s Syndrome Association (DSA). We aim to provide as many opportunities as possible to be active across England and Wales.
DSActive currently provide football, tennis and athletics sessions and will be looking to offer more opportunities and activities. All of the sessions are easily accessible and cater for ALL ages and abilities.
For many of the players who attend our football, tennis and athletics sessions, DSActive has given them a chance to take part in sport where previously there were limited opportunities. They have have also massively increased the players’ enjoyment of and satisfaction in taking part in sport.
What the programme does
DSActive supports and works in partnership with sports clubs and activity providers to run sessions for people with Down’s syndrome. The DSActive team market all our sessions to increase participant, they regularly visit the sessions to support the coaches and run festivals with our sports clubs. The DSActive team also provide expert advice to each sports club or activity provider to ensure the sessions are of the highest standard possible and are suitable for all ages and abilities. The team have also helped many people with Down’s syndrome to achieve qualifications in their chosen sport so they can pursue their dreams of becoming coaches.
Common knowledge and research studies show sport and exercise can produce physical benefits. This principle also applies to individuals with Down’s syndrome, and the DSActive programme has already yielded some astonishing results.
- A University of Cambridge PHD examined the benefits of sports participation on individuals with DS. It found that 30 minutes of moderate to vigorous activity was hugely beneficial providing health benefits towards diabetes and obesity – two common illnesses experienced by those with Down’s Syndrome.
- 76% of parents/carers in a recent study have stated that their loved one was not very active before they started attending DSActive, which implies that the football and tennis sessions are important means of raising activity levels.
- One parent gave a very clear example of how DSActive had improved her son’s physical health. Three years previous to him starting DSActive sessions he had been diagnosed with diabetes, since then there has been a notable improvement in his blood glucose levels.
- Many players that have been a part of DSActive, have significantly improved their weight management & fitness, increased their level of co-ordination and seen a noticeable ease of movement.
- DSActive offers players an opportunity to spend time together in an active environment. Association with certain clubs has also created chances for participants to connect more frequently and freely with their peers at school. Consequently, the vast majority of participants have seen great development in their social and emotional development.
- Since joining a DSActive session, 27% of participants have lost weight, 68% have improved their fitness levels, 78% have improved their physical ability and over 91% have improved their social skills.
- There are no limitations for participants joining the sessions; they are quick, easy and accessible for anybody to join.
In 2006, the DSA teamed up with Fulham FC Foundation to deliver weekly recreational sessions for people with Down’s syndrome. The sessions quickly transformed from an informal kick-a-bout in the park to structured sessions delivered by experienced, professional coaches from Fulham FC Foundation. They provided a comfortable and safe learning environment for players to develop and after a remarkable two years, word began to spread and new clubs began to form across the country.
There are now over 40 football sessions all across England and Wales. The programme is of huge benefit to both the clubs and the coaches who provide the sessions. We are lucky to be working in partnership with such a wide variety of clubs, ranging from grass-roots community clubs to some of the biggest football club foundations. Every club and team has had a huge impact on their local Down’s syndrome community and in turn has seen many benefits from hosting sessions.
The DSActive National Festival is our showcase event and provides a fantastic platform for teams to showcase their football talent and compete with teams of a similar ability. As well as the competition side of the day, players and parents get the opportunity to interact and make friends with families from areas of the UK they usually wouldn’t communicate with.
The tennis programme began in 2010, and now has over 20 tennis sessions across the UK. DSActive work in partnership with the Tennis Foundation who provide continuous support to the programme. Each DSActive tennis session is run by qualified coaches and a dedicated workforce of volunteers.
Tennis sessions provide lots of different activities for players to take part in from balance and co-ordination drills to exciting matches. As the tennis sessions offer a wide range of activities, individuals find there is always something they enjoy and can focus on.
In 2014, DSActive hosted the first tennis festival at the National Tennis Centre. The event saw players from all over the country take part in fun drills and skills that were run by experienced tennis coaches. The popularity from this festival has meant demand came to host similar festivals across the country.
DSActive continues to provide regional opportunities for players to compete in fun festivals. In September 2015, DSActive hosted a South Regional Tennis Festival at the Portsmouth Tennis Centre which saw players from all over the south of England attend. The day was a huge success and comprised of fun activities to improve player’s coordination and technique before moving into age specific matches. The festival was led by LTA qualified coaches who lead on the Portsmouth DSActive session and were supported by staff from the Down’s Syndrome Association.
Athletics is the latest sport to be added to the DSActive programme. In 2017 the team ran an athletics summer camp near to our head office in Teddington, the summer camp proved to be very popular. The sessions were led by coaches from England Athletics, and gave the participants to try new activities they had never had the chance to try before. The success and popularity of the sessions became the inspiration to launch athletics clubs across England and Wales.
Athletics is a very inclusive sport and can be adapted to suit any age and ability. The sport also covers many motor skills which we use in everyday life, such as running, jumping and throwing. The sport is popular with both males and females and we can sure will be a very popular addition to the DSActive programme.
Why it works
Working closely with many community and professional clubs, DSActive staff offer continuous support to everyone that is involved. During the start-up phase, clubs will be advised on the best way to organise and deliver a session to ensure the highest participation levels are achieved. Before any clubs begins their programme, they will be provided with coach education which is a workshop advising coaches how to work with people who have Down’s syndrome. Attendees of the workshop are not only qualified coaches, but are also volunteers, parents and staff at the club. This means everyone can get involved to form a tight community.
These weekly sessions have allowed players to develop in a number of ways and have showcased many examples of the benefits of the DSActive programme. Along with the obvious improvements in coordination and cognition, players have seen great enhancements in their physical and emotional health, and the sessions regularly highlight the change in confidence and self-esteem.