UNION—Kean University’s Department of Occupational Therapy (OT) will host the Special Olympics New Jersey Young Athletes Program (YAP) on Sunday, April 18, from 10 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. in Harwood Arena, located at 1000 Morris Avenue in Union.
The YAP introduces children with intellectual disabilities to the world of sports. It is designed for children ages 2 ½ to 7, and serves as the foundation for play, fun and future participation in the regular Special Olympics program for people ages 8 and older.
“The program is fascinating because it focuses on what children are capable of doing and want to do,” said Mary Falzarano, assistant professor of OT and coordinator of the YAP at Kean. “Students will learn to connect theoretical, clinical, client-centered practice and their knowledge of the human body and movement to meet the needs of the young athletes.”
More than 120 students, faculty and staff from Kean’s occupational therapy, special education, therapeutic recreation and physical education departments will volunteer at the event. Volunteers will assist the young athletes and their families in eight sporting events targeting specific basic gross motor and visual-perceptual motor skills necessary as a foundation for the child’s main occupation – play. Children will learn to control movements to participate and play sports, as well as follow directions.
The eight sporting events include:
• Foundational skills – body awareness and fitness skills
• Walking & running – “traveling” movement skills
• Balance & jumping – stability and mobility skills
• Trapping & catching – introductory ball skills
• Throwing – arm/hand and eye coordination skills
• Striking – upper body strength and visual motor skills
• Kicking – lower body coordination
• Free play area – an area that provides alternate movement opportunities until the athlete is ready to return to the more structured activities
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