The Power of Sports

Equal sports opportunities for children with special needs

Stimulating children with special needs in engaging in sports leads to social integration, increased self-esteem and contact with other parts of society. Still, European countries largely vary in efforts, facilities, and programmes to encourage these children in sports participation. Inventory studies help to explore possibilities.

Professor Marije Deutekom

Children with special needs tend to lag behind in society. Sport can be helpful to bridge many gaps. Despite efforts, the Netherlands has not yet succeeded in raising the level of sports participation of people with a disability to the same level as the general population. An inventory study among seven European countries that joined the Sport Empowers Disabled Youth (SEDY) project, show large differences between European countries. The Amsterdam-based research team the Power of Sports participates in this SEDY project.


The Netherlands, England and Finland count relatively many initiatives that promote sports participation for children with special needs. The Dutch e.g. have developed the sports stimulation programme Special Heroes for pupils in special education and revalidation, and a sports website ‘Unique sporting’. Countries like Lithuania, Italy, Portugal, and France are less well-organized. Sports associations there indicate that initiatives fail because there is no demand, whilst parents comment: ‘We don’t ask for it because they don’t organize anything anyway”.

The research team focuses on developing and implementing a number of pilots in Europe. For example, Finland runs a pilot with students acting as personal coach for children with special needs. In England, researchers are investigating how to best organize focus groups involving children with special needs, focussing merely on what children actually want for themselves. The research team hopes to issue recommendations for changes.

More research projects on equal sports opportunities

  • Wheels: the ‘WHeelchair ExercisE and Lifestyle Study’ aims to develop a lifestyle and coaching programme for wheelchair users.
  • Youth Sports Fund: this study focuses on gaining more insight into the effectiveness of the activities of the Amsterdam Youth Sports Fund, which focuses on allowing children from socially disadvantaged families to engage in sports.


Would you like to know more? Please contact us.

Research team the Power of Sports
Universities of Applied Sciences InHolland and Amsterdam and/or
Professor Marije Deutekom
E-mail: and/or
Mobile: +31 6 24 512 991

logo InHolland university of applied scienceslogo Amsterdam University of applied sciences