The Valtti programme helps children and young people find hobbies

Description of the programme

Valtti is a youth sports project of the Finnish Paralympic Committee. Its goal is to help children with special needs find a physical hobby. In Valtti-programme a personal adapted physical activity instructor (PAPAI) guides a child or young person with special needs into a suitable hobby. The term ‘Valtti’ is the Finnish equivalent of PAPAI.

Children and young people with special needs aged 6–23 can apply for the Valtti programme. The PAPAIs are students from the fields of physical education, education and pedagogics, rehabilitation and social welfare who are interested in adapted physical activity. The PAPAI acts as their client’s hobby friend, instructor, support person and consultant for an experimental period of 4–6 weeks.

The application period is 1 March to 30 April for the children and young applying for the programme and for the students who wish to act as PAPAIs. The application form is available on this site (in Finnish). The experimental period will take place during autumn.

During 2016, the Valtti model was tested in some 20 localities in collaboration with 19 universities of applied sciences, universities and institutions for physical education. The original Valtti pilot  in 2016 was part of the three-year (2015–2017) SEDY project, whose goal was to help disabled children and young people to engage with physical activities. The Finnish partner of the project was the Finnish Sports Association of Persons with Disabilities (now the Finnish Paralympic Committee). In 2017-2019 the programme received financial support from the Ministry of Education and Culture. With help of the new SEDY2 -project, which started in January 2020, The Finnish Paralympic Committee has set the goal of creating a permanent practise based on Valtti for guiding disabled children and young people to sports hobbies. Moreover, the model of Valtti is a base for development of youth sport activities in SEDY2 partners in the Netherlands, Portugal, Lithuania and Austria. 

 

Results from the Valtti-pilot phase 2016

The results from the pilot-phase were promising. Altogether 367 children and young people with special needs aged 6-23 sent their application to get their own adapted physical activity instructor (PAPAI). Out of them 237 conducted the experimental periods in Autumn 2016, and 155 answered the feedback questionnaire. Of them 68 % were boys and their mean age was 12 years. 54% reported that they found a new sport as a hobby and 61 % reported that their physical activity level had increased. They tried altogether 37 different sports. The facilitators to sports participation were, if the participant had influence on the selection of sports, fun and joy during the try out, ability to participate after school and feelings of success. The hindrances to sports participation were inability to move independently to the hobby, as well as lack of assistance, hobby friend, transportation or adapted sports opportunities.

The PAPAIs were students or volunteers, 250 in total. Out of the PAPAIs 87% estimated that the role of PAPAI was a useful experience in their future career and 85% would recommend the role of PAPAI for future students. 

How can a child or young person apply for their own PAPAI?

Children and young people with special needs aged 6–23 can apply for the Valtti programme. A student who wishes to become a PAPAI will act as their client’s hobby friend, instructor, support person and consultant.

The programme is directed first and foremost at children and young who have a disability or long-term illness that hampers finding a sports hobby or participating in sports groups. Families can determine themselves whether the child or young person belongs to the target group, i.e., whether they are in need of special assistance.

The family will cover the expenses arising from participation fees, travel, the assistant and insurance fees. The participating families will commit to helping with the follow-up (through a feedback survey).

Students act as PAPAIs, supported by their personal Valtti coordinator

A PAPAI is, in a sense, a ‘personal trainer’. Students take on PAPAI duties as part of their studies. The PAPAI will act as their client’s hobby friend, instructor, support person and consultant. A PAPAI is not paid, but expenses (e.g., participation fees, travel expenses) are covered. A student who wishes to act as a PAPAI should apply for the programme during spring, but the actual It is also possible to apply on a volunteer basis. In such cases, we will resolve insurances and responsibilities individually. Valtti activities will commence only in the autumn.

The Valtti year clock

During spring, the student:

  • may attend the Valtti kickoff event, where additional information on the programme is given;
  • applies for the programme, and is given information on their Valtti client and instructions;
  • according to need, participates in education for adapted physical education or an event in adapted sports.

During summer, or in September 4th, at the latest:

  • The PAPAI will contact the family and arrange a meeting to get to know the family and to get a general picture of the hobby wishes of the child or young person.
  • After the meeting, the PAPAI will draft a trial and introductory programme, which will be realised during autumn.

The experimental period, August–December:

  • The PAPAI will organise an experimental period of 4–6 weeks, which will be carried out in August–December.
  • The PAPAI will organize minimum 4 try-out sessions.
  • The PAPAI will act as their client’s hobby friend, instructor, support person and consultant. The goal is to find a pleasurable hobby for the child or young person.
  • The PAPAI will document experiences, successes and downfalls together with the child or young person.
  • The PAPAI is supported by their local Valtti coordinator.

After the experimental period, by December 15th:

  • The tutor at the educational institution will record the credits for the student (the student must discuss this with their tutor beforehand). 
  • The PAPAI sends the forms for compensating travel and other expenses to the Finnish Paralympic Committee.
  • The PAPAI responds to the final survey and reports their experiences to the Finnish Paralympic Committee and gets a diploma.

Valtti coordinators support the PAPAIs

The local Valtti coordinator acts as the supervisor of the PAPAIs, solves any problems and helps to find suitable try-out locations and sports associations. There are some 17 Valtti coordinators, one for each locality.

The Valtti coordinator:

  • acts as the local support person in the contact between the Finnish Paralympic Committee, the educational institutions, the sports activities and families;
  • solves any problems arising (e.g., if the PAPAI falls ill);
  • attends two national meetings or training sessions;
  • may do a thesis related to the programme (monitoring the Valtti pilot projects);
  • gets an opportunity to attend possible international duties/trips;
  • gets a vantage point, receives multifaceted experience in adapted physical education, expands their network .... 

Sports organisations

Sports associations can acquire new members through the Valtti programme. Sports associations can update their information on the Finnish Paralympic Committee website in the registry Löydä oma seura (Find your sports association). This will also help the PAPAIs to find sports activities offered in their area, and thus be able to provide various opportunities for physical activity to their clients.

SEDY project 

The first SEDY-project (2015–2017)

The original Valtti programme was part of the three-year SEDY (Sports Empowers Disabled Youth) project (2015–2017), which was funded through the European Union (ErasmusPlus). The goal of the project was to help more disabled children and young people to engage with physical activities. The SEDY project was coordinated by the Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences, School of Sports & Nutrition, and it had nine partners from seven countries (the Netherlands, Finland, Great Britain, Italy, France, Lithuania and Portugal). The Finnish partner of the project was the Finnish Sports Association of Persons with Disabilities (now the Finnish Paralympic Committee).

The SEDY project seeked to map current problems and to find solutions to problems related to demand and supply. It has been noted that disabled children attend sports activities less and more rarely than children without disabilities. This is due to the lack of suitable programmes, activity locations and information. Disabled children do not know which form of sport or activity is suitable for them, where activities are organised, how to reach these locations and whether these activities are open for them. Families might fear that the child will not do well or fit in. Sports clubs assume that disabled children are not interested in club activities, or they are afraid that they lack the necessary skills and instructor resources. In the SEDY project, this is referred to as the problem of demand and supply.

The theoretical framework of the research was based on the International Classification of Functioning, Disability, and Health (ICF). The project studied how factors linked to the individual or the environment affect how a disabled child or young person participates in physical activities. In 2015, the project gathered basic information from different countries (number of disabled children, participation in physical activities, physical activity systems). In 2016, the Valtti programme developed by VAU was executed. In 2017, the final year of the project, the gathered information and best practices were disseminated across the whole of Europe. 

SEDY2 -project started in January 2020 

The new SEDY2 project, with it's 10 partners from five countries  (Netherlands, Finland, Portugal, Lithuania, Austria) is continuing with the inclusion theme in youth sport. The SEDY2 (2020–2022) is coordinated by the InHolland University of Applied Sciences. The Finnish partners are Finnish Paralympic Committee and Pajulahti Sports Institute. SEDY2 goals can be defined in three phases. The initial phase of the project is dedicated to “Analyzing the field of sport and inclusion” using focus group inteviews in four countries. The second phase of the project will concern the “Development of the SPIN tool”. Finally, the project partners will come to terms on where to implement what and moreover what the effects of the SPIN tool are, during the final phase of “Measuring the (needed) impact”. 

The Finnish partners, namely the Finnish Paralympic Committee and Pajulahti Sport Institute have key roles in the development of the SPIN tool, using the successful PAPAI intervention as the starting point. It will be improved even further and new instruments will be added. Finally they will be transformed into educational materials and disseminated via partners.

More information Aija Saari, Nina Peltonen and Tiina Siivonen (Tämä sähköpostiosoite on suojattu spamboteilta. Tarvitset JavaScript-tuen nähdäksesi sen.) or Virpi Remahl and Marja Gran (Tämä sähköpostiosoite on suojattu spamboteilta. Tarvitset JavaScript-tuen nähdäksesi sen.)

Additional information SEDY2 -project website