Magazine article The Exceptional Parent

Technology and Equipment. (Adapted Sports and Recreation)

Magazine article The Exceptional Parent

Technology and Equipment. (Adapted Sports and Recreation)

Article excerpt

Adapted sports and recreation, a concept born in the early 1970's, is beginning to take a more prominent role in improving the quality of life for people with disabilities. The number of people with disabilities who engage in sports and other physical activities has increased dramatically in the past decade, due to the growing field of assistive sports and recreation equipment. Whether for competition, recreation or physical rehabilitation and development, the sports and recreation equipment market has developed many devices to encourage people with disabilities to participate in sporting events and programs.

Before programs like the Special Olympics, most children and adults with disabilities, health care professionals, and caregivers focused on basic life skills, needs and comforts. After years of realizing that that is not enough, the trend began to shift to organized physical activity as both a recreational release and a way to improve and maintain the health of people with disabilities. The results have been widespread.

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ABILITYFIRST

AbilityFirst is a non-profit organization located in Southern California that focuses much time and energy on providing adaptive sports and recreation equipment and programs for its clients. With its newest affiliate, MindBodySpirit, AbilityFirst has provided programs and services to people with physical and developmental disabilities for the past 76 years. AbilityFirst operates a network of 22 facilities throughout southern California, including community centers, adult vocational training centers, accessible housing complexes and accessible camps.

MindBodySpirit specializes in providing innovative martial arts training and adapted movement programs to children and adults with physical and developmental disabilities. AbilityFirst's MindBodySpirit adapted movement program includes activities such as:

* swimming

* basketball with AbilityFirst's wheelchair basketball team, the Los Angeles Stars (sponsored by the Los Angeles Lakers)

* drill team (adapted dance and aerobics team)

* ski school

* instruction in healthy living

* joint efforts with the Special Olympics and the Los Angeles Marathon

AbilityFirst community centers are equipped with accessible playgrounds, including equipment such as:

* safety swing chairs with straps

* wheelchair transfer ramps

* swing bridges for balance and gross motor development

* specially designed stairway play steps to assist with hand/foot coordination

* toss ball courts

* synthetic rubber mats under the playgrounds, to allow for easier wheelchair mobility.

AbilityFirst pools are equipped with bell bars for coordination and movement; aquatic noodles that provide flotation support and allow non-swimmers to improve their range of motion through leg kicks; hoyer lifts; and walking ramps so that clients can safely enter and exit the pools. AbilityFirst camps are completely accessible through equipment such as mounting ramps for equestrian sports and bowling ramps that allow bowling balls to be released from either a standing or sitting position.

The heart of AbilityFirst's philosophy is to encourage and seek to inspire individuals with developmental and physical disabilities to realize their full potential.

"The MindBodySpirit teaching philosophy is simple," states Stephanie Ivler, Chief Operating Officer and instructor for MindBodySpirit. "We strive to create an atmosphere conducive to excellence and then we step back and watch the students blossom. …

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