Tag: special olympics

Health Care Professionals and Students Volunteer at Health Screenings

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, george.kent@specialolympicsma.org ,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


Healthy Athletes Program Makes a Difference

Over the last 10 years, the Special Olympics Healthy Athletes program has provided health screenings to over 1 million Special Olympics (SO) Participants worldwide. Their testimonies tell the story of a program that has made an extraordinary impact.

Athletes share their stories

As a member of the Healthy Athletes Team, over the years I have heard many personal stories about the program. I remember speaking with one athlete who tearfully related how the Healthy Athletes (HA) Program saved his life. He spoke about going to the Special Smiles Dental screening where an oral cancer was discovered.

Others have received prescription eye glasses and goggles so they can see better. In fact, one young woman told me she didn’t know there was a line on the bottom of the pool until she received special goggles.

In Boise Idaho, I sat next to a local resident at dinner one evening and he was amazed at how well he could hear, having just received a new pair of hearing aids. He hadn’t been able to hear a conversation for over 10 years.

These may sound like extreme examples, but the HA program is also finding at least 30% of the athletes screened will need some form of education or intervention. For many, the result is a healthier lifestyle.

Athlete chooses healthy lifestyle

Yesterday I met with Colin Davidson, a Massachusetts SO athlete who participates in many sports including soccer, basketball, track and field, skiing, sailing and golf.  Colin competed in the U.S. National Games with his soccer team and at the Athens Special Olympics World Summer Games (2011) where his relay team won the gold medal; he also competed in 800 m and 1600 m events.

Colin attended the Dental, Vision, Hearing and FUNfitness screenings which he passed without finding any major problems. Yet he does feel he learned a lot about how to stay healthy.

“I eat better, drink water and milk and last year I worked out with a personal trainer to prepare for the Athens games,” Colin said. “All of this was very important for helping me to get to a healthier weight and stay in shape. Now I try to exercise almost every day and I feel better and more confident”.

A healthy outlook

When I asked Colin if he thought Special Olympics participants should attend the HA screenings, he answered,  “Yes, it will help you to be a better athlete.”

His further advice to everyone, “Never give up, and keep being positive in life.”

Next week be sure to join us as I share the experiences of health professionals responsible for the Healthy Athletes screenings.

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

Special Olympics: Working to Promote the Health of People with Intellectual Disabilities

My name is Jim Gleason, I am a physical therapist and have been very fortunate to work in the field of developmental disabilities since 1976. Actually, I began during the summers of my high school and college years when I worked in recreation and direct support for people with disabilities at summer camps. On occasion I would be a lifeguard for Special Olympics swimming events or volunteer at track and field events where I saw firsthand the joy and sense of accomplishment that participants experienced.

At the same time we could see that athletes were running in ill-fitting shoes, or didn’t know proper ways to warm-up for exercise or stretch out their muscles.

Beyond sports

What most people don’t know is that Special Olympics is also a health promotion activity. In the 1990s, a local dentist, Steve Perlman, and other health professionals recognized that many people attending Special Olympics events were in pain; had untreated tooth and gum disease, could not see the finish line, could not hear the starting pistol, and had many untreated health conditions. Something had to be done.

Healthy Athletes Begins

Healthy Athletes (HA) was established to provide health screenings and education for athletes, families, and coaches and is now a major part of Special Olympics events. HA includes screenings for: dental, vision, hearing, podiatry, physical therapy, health promotion and health physicals. This effort is also an important training ground for health professionals and students to learn about the needs of persons with Intellectual Disabilities (ID) and advocate that all health professionals be involved in the health promotion of people with ID/D in their routine practice.

Screenings offered today

Here in Massachusetts we offer Healthy Athletes health screenings at the State Winter and Summer Games, and at many local events throughout the year. At the State Winter Games in the Worcester Area on March 10, 2012, we will be offering screenings at Auburn High School and other locations.

This program has helped me see both here in Massachusetts and around the world that there continues to be tremendous need to address the health needs of people with disabilities. Over the next month I will introduce an athlete in the program as well as another health professional who feel the program has made a difference in their lives.

Join us to learn more.

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