Sunday, February 28, 2010

Busy Saturday Part I: Just For Kicks

There is a program called Just For Kicks, founded (?) by Tom Moran. "Coach Tom" is a very exceptional individual--he has an amazing passion for helping children, ALL children, regardless of disability, to enjoy movement, play, and sports. The sessions are free. We had the pleasure of attending a Just For Kicks session when E was 3, before her SDR operation. E was by far the youngest person at that session, and the one with the largest deficit in gross motor function. Over a year later, E still is (probably) the youngest, definitely the smallest, and still is the only child who cannot walk independently (very well, anyway). She was also the only person there with an obvious physical disability. Aside from Coach Tom, that is.

There were children of all different ages, most having some sort of behavioral issue. There were many facilitators at this meeting, most were UVA college students. It didn't matter how old you were, how well you could move, if you could talk, etc.--Coach Tom knew how to get all the kids motivated, for them to feel confident, and for them to feel comfortable, and for them to enjoy themselves. He also knew how to get them to listen. It's like he's MAGICAL, the kids just LOVE him!

Here are some of the activities the kids did (in case it gives others exercise ideas):
--circle time, introduction
--walking around, giving high-fives and telling everyone "You Are Awesome!"
--obstacle courses with sit-scooters, cones, jump ropes, color pads
--tic-tac-toe with beanbags
--beanbag games/concentration/balancing
--walk to a shape on the ground, uncover a card; bounce a ball as many times as there were pips on the card
--a variation of Twister involving the floor and the wall
--parachute games (cat and mouse: mouse hides under the parachute, everyone makes "waves" and a child walks on top of the parachute trying to find the mouse; sitting inside an "igloo"; playing "shark", where if your foot is tagged you have to go under the chute while everyone standing makes waves; "popcorn", where beanbags are placed on top of the parachute, and everyone has to make waves to "pop" them; color chase, where if Coach Tom says the color you're holding, you have to run under the parachute to the opposite side, etc. etc.)
--cup stacking

Here are some highlights with E:
Tom leading the Train before sending everyone To Stations (E can stop and use her hands while keeping her crutch on)

Twister Wall with Ms. Kara (not the best video, but you get the idea)

Cup Stacking with Ms. Kara (all activities are done in groups or in parallel, to encourage interaction). I liked the way E didn't stack cups like everyone else, she really explored different ways to do it.

Beanbag tossing with Ms. Julie

A Parachute Game

Coach Tom at the closing

You know how I know how important a program like this is? Because of what these 4-12 year old kids learned at the end of this 2-hour session. Everyone sat in a circle and said something they learned. Here are some of their lessons, from the kids' own mouths.

"I learned that being autistic means you can still make friends."
"I learned how to have fun with others that are not like me."
"I learned that it's okay to ask for help."
"I learned not to yell when it's not my turn."
"I learned there is a time to be patient, and a time to yell for fun."
"I learned to share."

And many more--I almost cried. Oh, and did I mention that this was also a kick-off for the Helping Hands program, where the facilitators make themselves available so that these kids can be in any community program, despite their disability, so they can enjoy that activity in a peer setting? YEAH. Amazing!


Katy said...

Sounds like a GREAT! place--thanks for sharing so many of the activities with us--got my mind spinning.

Anonymous said...

Would anybody be so kind and post a contact on "coach Tom"? Tank you