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Special Olympics Gymnastics:

Special Olympics Gymnastics Natalie Garcia ngarcia@knights.ucf.edu 11-04-11 EEX 4070

Special Olympics of Seminole County Florida:

Mission Provide year-round sports training and competition in Olympic Sports for persons eight years and older with intellectual disabilities. History The Special Olympics of Florida wasn’t actually established until 1972. The concept began in the 1960’s when a woman named Eunice Kennedy Shriver started a day camp in her backyard for students with intellectual disabilities. The first Special Olympic games were then held in Chicago. Today Special Olympics is the largest in physical fitness competition, leadership opportunities, and social interaction for persons with intellectual disabilities. Funding The SOSC is a non profit organization. It is funded through individual and corporate donations, as well as yearly fundraisers. Special Olympics of Seminole County Florida

Some sports offered include:

Some sports offered include Bowling Softball Gymnastics Competitive Cheerleading Roller-skating Basketball Equestrian Horseback Riding Track and Field Cycling Volleyball Tennis Soccer Golf Swimming Bocce Sailing

Engagement Activities:

As a team, we addressed the need to instill a sense of pride and accomplishment in our athletes. The goal was to qualify for the State Gymnastics competition. All but two of our athletes did, due to dedication and hard work from coaches and athletes. 15 Hours of engagement were fulfilled with practices every Tuesday from 6:00-7:30 starting, for me, September 6, 2011 and ending with the State Competition November 4-6, 2011. A typical practice included: Stretch and Warm up Practice of Routines ( for girls) on the Balance Beam, Uneven Bars, Floor, and Vault. For boys, Pommel Horse, Rings, Vault, Floor, Parallel Bars, and High Bar. Engagement Activities

How I got involved:

Gymnastics has always been a major part of my life. I started competing when I was five and stopped due to a car accident at age 16. I now coach it as a part time job—so when the need for a service project with students who had disabilities came up I couldn’t think of a better one for me then coaching the sport of Gymnastics in the Special Olympics! How I got involved

Participant Demographics:

Athletes ages on our team ranged from 8-23. Ethnic Backgrounds were Caucasian, African American, and Asian. This project involved coaching 12 athletes total. Most were girls, however we did have three awesome boys. The participants were considered persons with disabilities under the I.D.E.A mostly because they had intellectual disabilities. While each athlete’s disability was different, most of them suffered from low IQ’S, autism, and down syndrome. The I.D.E.A’s education system protects each specific disability. Participant Demographics

Service in Action:

Service in Action

Tamara competing her Balance Beam routine—didn’t fall off once! This clip is very special to me because she had never once, out of all our practices, been able to stay on the beam—but she did when it counted!:

Tamara competing her Balance Beam routine—didn’t fall off once! This clip is very special to me because she had never once, out of all our practices, been able to stay on the beam—but she did when it counted!

Perceptions of Differences:

My initial feelings at the start of this project were nervousness and excitement. I felt eager to help coach a sport I had always loved, however slightly uneasy since I had very little experience among persons with disabilities. I ended up feeling right at home after the first practice. Every Tuesday night I would leave my part time job to coach these amazing individuals. It became the highlight of my week. Even if I was having a bad day, or a bad practice at work, leaving to coach these athletes always left me with a smile. When it came time for our states competition a drawing was done with all the qualifying scores to see who would get to compete. One little girl named Tina did not make it. She was extremely upset. Right away her friend Abigail ran up and began to console her. The funny thing is that Abigail didn’t get picked to go to States competition either. Abigail hugged and wiped away the tears and told her over and over again that it was okay and that she loved her. They also planned to have their own party that weekend instead. This experience had the most impact on me because it’s not very often you see that kind of support and love. Perceptions of Differences

Tina and Abigail:

Tina and Abigail

Connections to the Course:

For this Teachers in Action project I was completing EEX 4070. Through this course I better understand ADHD or Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. Two of our athletes were diagnosed with this disability—one more severe than the other. The one little boy was assigned a personal helper just for him at all times because of his extreme hyperactivity. He literally never stopped running. Another concept I was made more aware of this semester was an intellectual disability . Many of our athletes had lower IQ’s, autism, and down syndrome. Each individual had a different way of perceiving and learning. It was great to watch them grow and improve not only in their athletic abilities, but social skills too. Different learning styles was another concept I understand better. It is obvious that everyone learns in their own way. This experience proved to be no different. Sometimes I only had to tell the athletes what to do, other times I had to demonstrate. Regardless of how they learned gymnastics, seeing the instruction finally ‘click’ in their heads was the most rewarding thing I could ever ask for. Connections to the Course

Teaching Breanna a Sashay (Fancy word for gallop) in her Floor Routine.:

Teaching Breanna a Sashay (Fancy word for gallop) in her Floor Routine.

Civic Engagement:

Prior to this project, I never realized how vital Civic Engagement and volunteering was to our communities. Working with these individuals has made me realize how much one person can make a difference in anybody’s life—disabled or not. I thought that I was the one helping them, when in fact, I think they were the ones helping me. This experience has helped me grow as a person. In fact, I have already decided to do it again next year. Service-Learning is a great way to acquire knowledge. It is an excellent approach to get your feet wet without the lecture and reading. Not only will others benefit from you, but you will learn and grow from them as well. I would encourage everyone—not just teachers and students—to embrace service learning in the future. It has been the most rewarding experience in my life thus far. Civic Engagement

Final Thoughts and Reflections:

This project will have a lasting impact on my life forever. Special Olympics is something I plan to stay involved with throughout my existence. It didn’t matter what place each athlete got they were just proud to be there. These individuals have truly touched my heart. We as teachers, coaches, or volunteers have the opportunity to do the same. We can make a difference. Final Thoughts and Reflections

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