The success of the Special Olympics(SO) is dependent on the volunteerism of thousands of people who donate their time and energy to coach, guide and advise the athletes. In addition, Health care professionals and students volunteer to ensure the success of the FUNfitness and Healthy Athletes programs.

Health care professionals share expertise

The Health care professionals conduct health screenings as an essential part of the FUNfitness program. Doctors, dentists, nurses, podiatrists, physical therapist, vision and hearing specialists all donate their time to insure that Health screenings are done in a professional manner.

Here in Massachusetts, our FUNfitness team includes Deirdra Murphy DPT, Clinical Director; Ed Kostek DPT, Clinical Instructor and Nancy Davis DPT who directs and implements the FUN fitness screenings.

Getting students involved

The committed team includes both seasoned professionals and students in these various health professions.

Deirdra is on the physical therapy faculty at UMass-Lowell, where her students have consistently participated. Ann Golub-Victor, DPT is on the faculty at Northeastern University(NU), recruiting many students from NU who are also key to our program.

Goals for the programs

The primary goal of FUNfitness is providing education and service to the Special Olympics athletes. The Healthy Athletes(HA) program has a key goal of increasing opportunities for people with Intellectual Disabilities(ID) to access needed health services. There are many barriers to these services including the attitude of health providers unfamiliar with the needs of people with ID or who have no previous experience with people with ID.

Through FUNfitness and other HA screenings, we create a fun and welcoming service where health professionals meet and interact while providing necessary service. . . And through this effort they come to the realization that their current and future practice can and should include people with ID and other developmental disabilities. As one student recently remarked, “I didn’t realize this would be so much fun.”

This is also our opportunity to educate health providers that people with ID have significant health problems previously unidentified, such as a high rate of balance difficulty and muscle tightness. The result is a better understanding of the need to address these concerns and that we all have a role in advocating for better health care for people with ID.

Learn more

To learn more about the FUNfitness Program,  other Healthy Athletes Programs or possibly becoming a volunteer, contact George Kent, ,at 508.485.0986 ex. 215.

About the author

Jim Gleason is an Associate Director of the Shriver Center University Center for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities (UCEDD) and a faculty member of the UMMS Shriver LEND Program.Jim Gleason