04 Oct Children with Special Needs Achieve Milestones with Amazing Athletes
Youth sports fitness provider focuses on gross motor skill development to help children with disabilities at The Little Light House achieve landmark strides in development
TULSA, OK – Despite physical, mental or developmental obstacles, children with special needs at The Little Light House perform incredible feats of athleticism through Amazing Athletes’ preschool-aged sports fitness program. Amazing Athletes of Eastern Oklahoma visits The Little Light House once a month to teach children the fundamentals of nine different sports and other fitness activities through its structured youth sports fitness program. Using the facility’s gym classroom, children are challenged in their gross motor development through the use of sports activities, age-appropriate sporting equipment, and cooperative play.
Amazing Athletes’ volunteer partnership with The Little Light House began in Sept. 2012, when Amazing Athletes of Eastern Oklahoma owner Michael Amberg walked through the doors of the volunteer organization to discuss his program and set up regular classes for the kids. After learning more about the philanthropic aim of the volunteer child development center, however, he quickly realized that he couldn’t ask anyone at the school to pay for classes. He knew it would have to come from the goodness of his heart and that of his coaches to volunteer their time coaching classes at the preschool.
And that is exactly what they did, pooling their time and resources once a month to teach Amazing Athletes’ award-winning youth sports program to children with disabilities at The Little Light House, a volunteer-led child development center that is dedicated to improving the lives of children with special needs.
“My coaches find the classes so rewarding that they sometimes ask not to coach at their regular classes that they get paid for so they can coach at The Little Light House as a volunteer,” said Amberg. “It is the most rewarding thing I have done since I started coaching. I love it!”
In addition to the coaches having a great time, Amberg said the kids get the opportunity to experience activities that other children can more easily experience, like playing ball.
“They get to see that just because of their special circumstances that doesn’t mean they can’t play basketball or soccer or any of our other sports,” he said. “It also allows them to get moving, get active, work on motor skills, and exercise their brains as well as their bodies. It provides structure and allows them to experience new shapes, colors, textures and sounds, among other things. Plus they get to have fun!”
During classes, Amazing Athletes coaches work with developmental experts at The Little Light House to conduct sports-specific activities, such as football, basketball, baseball and other general fitness exercises. With so many dedicated volunteers in each active classroom, the young students receive the utmost attention with each new feat they accomplish.
“Including the teachers, therapists and volunteers, most of the time there is a 1:1 or 2:1 ratio of kids to adults to help them successfully complete the activity,” said Julie Wilson, PT, Director of Therapy at The Little Light House. “The coaches from Amazing Athletes are quick to work with the therapists and teachers to adapt activities to a child’s different developmental and physical needs.”
Wilson said the children’s eyes light up when they are met by Amazing Athletes coaches and their age-appropriate sports equipment during gym time.
“The children quickly learn that the events of the day in their gym time are out-of-the-ordinary and different when they see the coaches and their equipment,” she said. “They enjoy interaction with the coaches, volunteers, teachers, therapists and their peers in a fun yet structured motor learning experience.”
Children with special needs benefit from fitness and sports activities just as all developing children do, said Wilson. Not only do they achieve milestones in gross motor skills, but the cooperative play also enhances social, emotional, communicative and cognitive skills as well.
“All the benefits of cooperative play, fitness and motor skill development help them move forward toward reaching their individual gross motor goals. A significant amount of learning in other domains, such as social, emotional, language and cognitive skills are enhanced by motor play and activities,” Wilson said. “They are eager to participate and show great pride and excitement with all the cheering and success they experience.”
Amazing Athletes classes take place once a month at The Little Light House. For more information about The Little Light House, visit www.littlelighthouse.org or call (918) 664-6746. For more information about getting the Amazing Athletes program in your school or organization, visit www.amazingathletes.com or call (918) 407-3472.