The Adaptive Olympics for the special education students at Snow Springs Elementary was held last Wednesday, May 23. Paul Warner, Adaptive Physical Education Teacher for Alpine School District, and the PTA for Snow Springs set up athletic events, balloon arches, and a water station for the special education students participating in the Olympics while other students, parents, and teachers cheered them on.
“This is our big end-of-the-year event where we celebrate what we’ve been working on all year. A lot of our kids are moving on to different schools so this is a chance for the rest of the school to celebrate them too,” explained Paul Warner. Snow Springs students in the adaptive program interact with traditional students in some classes and during recesses. Some of the sixth-grade students are paired up with special needs students as “buddies,” a program that continues in the peer tutoring program at Willowcreek Middle School and Lehi High School.
For the first event, special needs students competed against each other in a two-man running race, jumping over low hurdles made with jump ropes. Warner encouraged each of the students by name and instructed those on the sidelines to cheer with their hands instead of their voices when certain students with sensitivity to noise were competing. “It’s part of the job to really know these kids,” said Warner. Other events included a “javelin” toss through Olympic rings and a relay race.
“We try to hype this up and make sure the kids know they’re part of the team,” said Becky Pulham, a member of the Snow Springs PTA. Pulham and other parents who spent time helping to put on the Adaptive Olympics have had children go through the special education program so they have an understanding of the needs of the students and parents. Pulham has a daughter at Snow Springs who is a “buddy” to one of the special needs students. “She loves getting to help her buddy do what everyone else is doing,” said Becky Pulham. “Not every school has an adaptive program and I’m really happy my kids get to go here.”
“A lot of parents of special kids are so over-burdened by their responsibilities at home that it’s hard for them to help out at school as well,” explained Angela McNamara, a member of the Snow Springs PTA helping put on the Adaptive Olympics. “There is a great need for us to provide support to these parents and lighten their load.”
“One of the big reasons I do this event is to make it about the special needs students,” said Paul Warner. “It’s their big day. I try not to treat them differently, but they don’t always get the same success level that traditional students get. We want to put them in the spotlight today and let them have their fun.”
The special needs students competing in the Adaptive Olympics did not always follow the race track lines, and some were more interested in giving their friends a high-five than finishing a race, but their unexpected behavior and clear delight was the best part of the events. The Kilpack siblings, both special needs students at Snow Springs, didn’t hold back when they were pitted against each other in a wheelchair race. Maggie Kilpack’s kindergarten friends held up signs and cheered as loud as they could for her as she drafted off her brother’s wheelchair with a big smile on her face. “As long as they’re out here having fun and enjoying themselves, it’s awesome,” laughed Paul Warner.