Becoming an athlete can start at any age. Children want the chance to learn how to balance, throw a ball, kick, and so on. What about children with intellectual disabilities? They too can participate in athletics under the Special Olympics Special Young Athletes Program.
The Paso Robles Joint Unified School District finished its first year of the Special Olympics Young Athletes Program. It’s a sport and play program for children ages two through seven with and without intellectual disabilities.
Paso Robles special education coordinator Katie Johnson explains the purpose is, "to support growth and development in growth motor skills, to explore a variety of activities, and to really get kids moving at that young age."
The Young Athletes Program culminates special education classrooms with their typical peers to work together, participate in physical activities, and create inclusive opportunities.
"My job was to explain the obstacle course to the kindergarteners who were doing it. It made me feel really happy because I like seeing the kids be happy and that made me happy," said Pat Butler Elementary student Cayla Crume.
The children learn a sense of responsibility while having fun and making new friends.
"The fourth and fifth grade students got to help supervise the stations, put that responsibility on them, so they really got to feel like they were taking charge and being part of something bigger than themselves," Johnson said.
"We got to get balls and hit them, we got to use a parachute, we got two obstacle courses, and we got to do different kinds of walks," explained Pat Butler Elementary student Hunter Robasciotti.
"I like exercising with my little buddy and having lots of fun," said Pat Butler Elementary student Zoe Kinder.
Paso Robles Joint Unified School District held five culminating events with nearly 250 students participating.