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Connections Partners With the Special Olympics -- Here’s What That Means for Our Students

Sports deliver a lot of benefits for children -- from motor skill development and coordination to fitness and cognitive skills. Sports also can be a way to connect with peers socially and form friendships around a shared interest. That’s why we’re excited to partner with the Special Olympics to provide their inclusive sports program to our students!


Through this partnership, the Special Olympics provides sports equipment and curriculum that we weave throughout our PE and fitness classes. Age- and ability-based lessons are provided for students in Pre-K, elementary and middle/high school.


Our trained teachers lead students through the curriculum, breaking down each skill into linear components adapted for students with autism. “We teach each skill step-by-step to our students with each day building on the previous. As students learn, we reinforce their growth with a fun activity,” explains Katie Wentley, Director of Health, Wellness & Aquatics at Connections. “For example, at the park, our elementary students worked on gross motor skills by skipping and hopping along the path. To reinforce their hard work on these prerequisite skills, we let them enjoy time on the playground, which they loved.”


Throughout the curriculum, our students will practice:


  • Recognizing the names of the equipment used in a sport (football, softball, bat, glove, bases, etc.)

  • Following single-step instructions

  • Taking turns

  • Gross motor skills (jumping, hopping, running, navigating around markers, holding a bat, swinging a bat, catching, etc.)

  • Following multi-step instructions

  • Using two or more gross motor skills at the same time

  • Cheering on teammates

  • Handling success, trying again or learning through disappointment

  • And more!

The Special Olympics generously donated sports equipment for use in instruction, including equipment for football, basketball, track and field, wiffleball, teeball, softball and an obstacle course.


“We’re working to become a designated Unified Champion School by teaching our students the Special Olympics curriculum and then inviting some neurotypical peers to join our students for some of the activities,” adds Katie. “Our goal is to build our students’ ability to interact with others through sports and to promote broader inclusion in our community.”



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