Friday, April 12, 2013

Special Olympics Young Athletes Day

A few volunteers giving one of my students the extra encouragement he needed to finish the race.

This week we attended our first Special Olympics Young Athletes Day.  This was an excellent event!  It was well put together and full of enthusiastic volunteers.  This was not a competition where children receive awards for first, second, and third place; instead, it was more of a play day where everyone wins and receives ribbons for participation.  I'm not generally the type of person in favor of awarding every child.  Losing is a part of life and if children don't learn that lesson early on, they grow up with a warped view of society.  Even children with disabilities need to learn this important lesson.  However, Young Athletes Day is different.  I think it should be noted that this is not a competition but a day to encourage children with disabilities and those who work with them to get outside and be active.  Here is what the Special Olympics website says about it:

"Young Athletes™ is a unique sport and play program for children with intellectual disabilities. The focus is on fun activities that are important to mental and physical growth.
Children ages 2 1/2 to 7 enjoy games and activities that develop motor skills and hand-eye coordination. Young Athletes is an early introduction to sports and to the world of Special Olympics. The children learn new things, play and have lots of fun!
Parents say their children in Young Athletes also develop better social skills. The confidence boost makes it easier for them to play and talk with other children on the playground and elsewhere."

Judah is tossing a softball to an older student.  My little dude is not very active outdoors, so it was awesome to see him so involved and eager to play.

I'm helping one of my students who uses assistive devices for mobility.  We're not going to let that stop him from  knocking the skin off that ball! 

This is a great picture that I believe captures the spirit of Young Athletes volunteers.  I was very impressed by those who helped out.  For the most part, I noticed a genuine attitude of kindness and even gentleness from them.  If I'm not mistaken, I think they were all Marines. 

Another awesome aspect of the day was seeing other students from different schools.  I finally saw two former students of mine after almost a year.  In this picture, Judah is with one of his best friends from our Sharing Down Syndrome Arizona Advocacy Group.  They have been buddies since they were only a few months old.

There were so many activities.  We rarely had to wait, and all of the events focused on using gross motor skills to keep everyone moving.

Potato heads!

I'm not kidding, Judah would rather be on the computer or watching TV than play with a ball.  I encourage my three children in whatever their interests are, so I don't force him to be outside playing too much.  On average he gets about an  hour a day of active play.  That includes recess at school.  He likes to play on the fort/swing set and trampoline at home and that's about it.  So seeing him be so active at this event was very encouraging.

Involved parents make all the difference in the world!  If you're a parent, please don't allow the school to raise your kid.  Get in there and be a part of your child's education!

I'm not gonna lie, I had as much fun as they did!

Thanks to our districts amazing Physical Therapist, our students were no strangers to many of the activities.  Who doesn't like to hop around?

The only thing missing here is my bike!  I think I may start bringing mine to work so I can ride around our concrete jungle with these guys!

 Thanks to everyone involved with putting this event together and making it happen! From my class to you, we give you a huge applause and look forward to next year!

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