WVU-sponsored youth programs funded to enhance recreational opportunities for children with disabilities

For the third consecutive year, the National Inclusion Project has partnered with West Virginia University College of Physical Activity and Sport Sciences to continue a program designed to enable both children with disabilities and those without to strengthen social skills and confidence through play.

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A WVU Lifetime Activities student mentor spots a young girl as she works on a balance beam during a gymnastics class at Cary Gym in April 2016. Photo WVU

The continuing partnership will support training for instructors and student mentors in Lifetime Activities programs including the WVU National Youth Sports Program, swim lessons and gymnastics classes.

Andrea Taliaferro, CPASS associate professor of Adapted Physical Education, and Mary Wolk, program coordinator for Lifetime Activities, said the partnership with the National Inclusion Project has expanded the College’s ability to promote inclusion of participants with disabilities and help families at the same time.

“As we enter our third year with the National Inclusion Project, we can definitely see the impact within the community. Families talk about the power of inclusion. They provide testimonies about how the project expands their child’s life through comfort and confidence building,” said Wolk.

“Perhaps most importantly, children with special needs get to have fun, learn new skills, and experience activities alongside their peers,” added Taliaferro.

Thanks to the partnership, CPASS has overcome barriers and can better serve children with special needs in each activity. The funding has allowed Lifetime Activities to provide in-depth training of staff and instructors, hire trained mentors to attend inclusive programming to provide support to participants with disabilities, increase the ratio of staff to children and raise awareness of the new offerings through promotional materials.

Parents believe that the project increases enthusiasm, while the activities build skills to excel and compete in different sports. They point to how the interaction between children with special needs and their peers builds understanding and friendships.

WVU student mentors acknowledge the benefits in working in the program. “This past summer I took a job as a mentor for the National Inclusion Project and have been swimming and doing gymnastics with the kids ever since. This experience has given me the opportunity to meet extraordinary people and to learn and grow, alongside my mentees, in ways that I never could have imagined,” Haley Krug, Occupational Therapy major, commented.

As part of the arrangement, CPASS has received a $5,000 grant to support Lifetime Activities through specialized training on how to work with individuals who need special support.

WVU CPASS is one of the select organizations that the National Inclusion Project has chosen to collaborate with for a third year.

“We are excited to continue our work with the West Virginia University Lifetime Activities Program to enhance the inclusive opportunities for children in this community,” says Nick Leisey, National Inclusion Project Executive Director.

About the National Inclusion Project: The National Inclusion Project was co-founded in 2003 by entertainer Clay Aiken and serves to bridge the gap that exists between young people with disabilities and the world around them. By driving the movement for social inclusion in after school programs, summer camps, and community-based activities, children of all abilities learn, play and laugh together. Over the last twelve years, the project has provided training, curriculum and support to YMCAs, JCCs, Boys & Girls Clubs, 4H, CampFire USA, kids’ museums, zoos and other community organizations looking to become inclusive or enhance their inclusive programs. For more information on the National Inclusion Project, visit their website at www.inclusionproject.org.

For more information about WVU LA visit http://lifetimeactivities.wvu.edu/ or contact Andrea Taliaferro, andrea.taliaferro@mail.wvu.edu or call 304.293.0852.

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