Warren Clark (17) from Southampton, has autism and other learning disabilities. He is a Special Olympics GB golfer and has just been selected onto the team for the Special Olympics World Games 2019 in Abu Dhabi in March next year.
Special Olympics provides sporting opportunities for people with intellectual or learning disabilities…
When I was younger a lot of people didn’t really know I had special needs. Special Olympics know I have special needs but I wouldn’t say they treat me differently.
Are there times when you can forget all about your disability?
Yes, when I’m out on a golf course playing with other people with special needs. It makes me feel really happy to play with other athletes who have the same sort of challenges.
When do you feel most disabled, if you ever do?
I feel more disabled when people don’t really understand me or when I’m trying to talk to somebody. I can say things, but I meant to say it in a different way. Or say I get something wrong: I can forget people’s names. So, if they say my name is Larry, I might call them something completely different, that sort of thing; or I might not say the appropriate thing at the right time; stuff like that.
Do you think that it’s a little bit easier to be disabled today than it was in the past?
I would think so, yes. I would say a little bit because people are understanding of what disabilities mean. It’s like people like me – I can walk but they now understand I have difﬁculties with my reading and writing and stuff. And my speaking. So, yes.
If you were to speak with an able-bodied person about your life, what do you think might surprise them about you?
Probably my knowledge of the game (of golf), I love everything about the game and learning about all the new equipment – and meeting new friends. I start telling them about all the different equipment and stuff and they’re surprised how much knowledge I have.
What do you most enjoy about golf?
Probably the long driver stuff. It’s two different things: I’m good at it but it’s like concentration, so I can mess up now and then. I’m not a big sort of team player, I’ve always been an individual person and if I do something wrong I can’t blame it on somebody else. But it’s also a very sociable game.
What advice would you give to another young disabled person?
I’d probably say go and try out a sport. Try all of the sports and see what you like, because a lot of sports now are disability friendly. I would go and join the Special Olympics, try out every sport. There’s usually one sport that suits them.
What advice would you give to an able-bodied person?
The thing that I would like to say is that they should treat us all the same. I am, who I am. So, I think the world should treat everybody fairly, whether young people or young athletes or whoever, we’re playing the same sport as them.
What do you most look forward to about Abu Dhabi?
Meeting everybody, making new friends; stuff like that really. I’m just going to enjoy it; it’s going to be the experience of a lifetime.
Follow the Special Olympics #WorldGames2019 in Abu Dhabi in March next year.