YOUNGSTERS with special needs are being encouraged to make the most of sporting activities available at leisure centres.
Horizon Leisure Centres, together with Hampshire Autistic Society, has launched a drive to make families aware of what is on offer to all children, particularly those with disabilities or with conditions such as autism.
The centres, in Havant and Waterlooville, have gymnastics, trampolining, swimming, dance, karate and football sessions for all abilities.
The crèches and play centres are all accessible to people with special needs.
Yesterday they held an open day to encourage parents, carers and teachers to go along to the centres to find out what is available and spread the word to other parents in similar positions.
Deborah Jarmaine is the activities co-ordinator for Horizon and part of her job is to make the centres accessible to all who want to use them.
She said: ‘We’ve been working to make parents aware that the centre is inclusive, so that it will enable any children with special needs to come and access the facilities we have got here.’
With the help of Jackie Harvey from Hampshire Autistic Society, staff have been learning ways to make it even more welcoming.
Jackie said: ‘A lot of children with additional needs can find there are barriers to participating in sport and activities with and without mainstream children.
‘What we’re trying to do is bring them in so everyone can join in together.
‘It’s brilliant to see more opportunities opening up for families who have children with additional needs.
‘And it’s lovely to see a leisure provider so engaged in making the right preparations for this to succeed.
‘This will be welcome news to families who have faced barriers in the past.’
Kaz White, Hampshire County Council’s recreational activities inclusion officer, said: ‘They are taking lots of steps to ensure children and families feel thoroughly welcome.
‘It’s great to see more and more facilities like this taking this approach.
‘Horizon Leisure Centres already had families with children with disabilities accessing the activities but wanted to promote and expand the range of activities on offer.’
To find out more go to horizonlc.com or call (023) 9247 6026.