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2011 Faculty & Staff News

Longwood faculty start aquatics and bowling program for special education students at Cumberland Elementary

October 26, 2011

CES student William Bowles with Longwood students Julia Van Houdt (left) and Meridith Jeffries
CES student William Bowles with Longwood students Julia Van Houdt (left) and Meridith Jeffries

Two Longwood University faculty members have launched a collaborative program that will provide therapeutic activity in aquatics and bowling to special education students at Cumberland Elementary School (CES).

This effort by Dr. Susan Lynch and Dr. Matt Lucas, both of whom teach in the Department of Health, Athletic Training, Recreation and Kinesiology (HARK), is an outgrowth of ongoing efforts by both to provide services in therapeutic recreation and adapted physical education to Cumberland County students. The program, which will involve Longwood students, may eventually be expanded to middle school and high school students.

This fall semester, CES special education students from Amy Scott's class and Yvette Rodriguez-Diaz's class have been coming to the Longwood campus. They go to Willett Hall at noon for a therapeutic aquatic program, then go to the bowling alley in Lankford Hall at about 1 p.m. to bowl. Longwood freshmen from Lynch's Intro to Therapeutic Recreation class and juniors from her Facilitation Techniques class are helping with this in the fall. Students from Lucas' Adapted PE and Lynch's Physical Disabilities classes will help in the spring.

Amy Scott teaches three students with multiple disabilities in grades K-5, and Yvette Rodriguez-Diaz, an early childhood specialist in special education, teaches four students ages 3-5. They bring all of their students to campus on Fridays.

CES student Hailey Ricker with Longwood student Amy Lewis

CES student Hailey Ricker with Longwood student Amy Lewis

"It's a great thing to bring the students here so they can practice gross-motor skills and social skills," said Scott. "It's important to take them outside of school, so that it's a different arena, a different environment. Also, some of these students have low muscle tone, and being in the water is therapeutic and helps strengthen their muscles. In addition, I want one of my students to cling to people less, and I can see that now (on the third visit) he is clinging less in the pool."

Rodriguez-Diaz said the aquatics activities are especially good for students who have autism. "These students have sensory issues, and being in the pool addresses these sensory issues. The sounds, the pressure from the water, and the feel of the water help them," she said. "These activities also help with their communication skills. For example, we want some of the students to speak in longer sentences, or to remember to use their indoor voice, and this helps."

This program for Cumberland Elementary students is in addition to the therapeutic aquatics class that Longwood's HARK has provided for several years in Willett Pool, usually six to seven times per semester, for adults in the community, said Lynch, who teaches in the therapeutic recreation program.

"We call this the pool practicum, which is connected to Therapeutic Recreation classes," Lynch said. "The juniors will mentor the freshmen. The aquatics class for adults provides therapeutic exercise and social interaction. The therapeutic exercise is based on helping individuals improve their range of motion, flexibility, and endurance."

CES student Christopher Alvarez

CES student Christopher Alvarez

The bowling activity with the CES students is different from a Saturday morning bowling program for kids with disabilities that was started recently by Lucas and two of his students.

"We use activities such as aquatics and bowling to help these individuals with problems or issues that have been identified," Lynch said.

Students in Lucas' Adapted PE class will help in the spring with the aquatics and bowling programs, which began Sept. 23. This spring, for the third year, students from that class will go out to CES to provide services in Amy Scott's class. "Ms. Scott helps runs our Challenger baseball program, and now she's also helping with the Saturday bowling program," Lucas said. "She has been a huge help with Challenger baseball."

Lucas and Lynch in spring 2009 helped start a local program of the Challenger Division of Little League Baseball for young people with disabilities. That program is held over six weeks every spring on the softball field at Cumberland High School.

The aquatics and bowling programs for CES special education students are the result of recent discussions initiated by Lynch and Lucas and involving the Cumberland County school superintendent, Dr. Amy Griffin; Bernice Ford, special education director and former CES principal; and the parent of a CES student who had inquired about recreational experiences in the community.