Kids work on skills at Youth Athletes Event Day
Kale Potter was up at 5:30 Monday morning, ready to go.
“He’s been very excited,” Potter’s stepfather, Dale Basyne, said. “He’s talked about this the whole weekend.”
The 3-year-old was one of nearly 60 children ages 21⁄2 to 7 from the Kidden Around Learning Center participating in the Special Olympics Youth Athletes Event Day at Columbine Park.
The program is designed to integrate sports into the curriculum for special needs students to get them acclimated to Special Olympics. The program helps children get accustomed to playing with special needs children for participation in Unified Special Olympic sports.
“It offers an opportunity for kids to work on their social and developmental skills,” Special Olympics Young Athletes Coordinator Athena Wright said. “We take a normal activity in normal circumstances and interpret them with their peers.”
Children eligible for Special Olympics can start to compete at age 8.
Izac Brown, 5, couldn’t wait to participate in the program either.
“We have a big toy room at the house and it was all dirty,” his father, James Bryant, said. “We were like, ‘You better get in there and clean it up.’ He was like, ‘I don’t want to.’ We told him, you’re not going to the big day tomorrow (if he didn’t clean the room). Man, he cleaned the thing spotless. He was very excited.”
The day was an opportunity for the children to forget any developmental skills problems they have and just play.
Brown has a speech impediment, Bryant said, but has shown improvement since being at the day-care center.
“As parents, we’ve seen improvement since he’s been there,” Bryant said. “This day is his day.
“All our kids are special. As far as doing chores, he gets up, he makes his bed. He puts his clothes in the dirty clothes hamper. He gets himself dressed.”
And he wants to be just like his big brother.
“He has an older brother in the sixth grade that plays football,” Bryant said. “Izac wants to play football, so we told him you have to do stuff like this first. After this, we’ll celebrate after. We don’t want him to forget this day.”
The children participated in five activities: bean bag toss, obstacle course, softball throw, ball kicking and running. Children learn colors and how to count in the activities.
“He was a very shy boy,” Basyne said of Kale. “He didn’t have a lot of vocabulary and wouldn’t talk to people. His vocabulary has increased 100 fold. They taught him sign language. It’s amazing to watch his personal growth. He is so smart.
“He loves kickball. He’s got his own golf clubs. He loves anything outdoors.”
The program is offered through Special Olympics and is available for teachers and parents.
It is being offered to day care centers to encourage children to participate in sports with special education children.
Anyone interested in getting involved in the program can call Wright at 433-9085. Each child is registered with Special Olympics for grant purposes.