Stories and Grievances: Special Education
New Program Empowers Disabled Individuals
Dr. Simon Driver, an assistant professor in the University of North Texas’ Department of Kinesiology, Health Promotion and Recreation is taking a more hands-on approach to training professionals to work with individuals with disabilities
University of North Texas program teaching children with disabilities motor skills and preparing students for future careers
DENTON (UNT), Texas – According to data from the U.S. Census Bureau, more than 4 million school-age children have at least one disability, yet many educators are inadequately prepared to teach children with disabilities.
Dr. Simon Driver, an assistant professor in the University of North Texas’ Department of Kinesiology, Health Promotion and Recreation is taking a more hands-on approach to training professionals to work with individuals with disabilities. Driver teaches Kinesiology 3020 Movement for Special Populations, a required course in kinesiology that provides students with the opportunity to interact with children with a disability on a weekly basis.
The students in Driver’s class get a crash course in working with special populations during the first two weeks of class, and then get the opportunity to design and implement physical activity lesson plans with children from the Denton area for the remainder of the semester.
Approximately 50 children ages three to 12 participate in the program each semester, the majority of the children have either developmental or physical disabilities, although the normal-functioning siblings and peers of the students with disabilities are encouraged to participate in the program.
During each class session the college students get the opportunity to implement lesson plans that they designed as part of the course requirement. The lesson plans include games and activities that are designed to build physical activity skills such as throwing, catching, running and bouncing. The students also are asked to design modifications for each activity as well as a reward system to encourage and reward successful behaviors.
The classes help the children develop crucial motor and social skills, while also instilling confidence in the college students, many of whom have never interacted with children with disabilities prior to taking Driver’s course.
Sharry Baumgarten’s son Connor, who has Autism, has been participating in the program since it began in the spring of 2006. She says that she has seen her son’s physical and social capabilities grow significantly as a product of the program.
“My son began the program when he was three years old. At that point he had adaptive physical education as part of his individualized education plan, but the extra instruction that he has received through Dr. Driver’s program has improved his capabilities to the point that he no longer requires adaptive PE,” said Baumgarten. “The program also has helped with his social skills, interacting with the students and having them as role models, is an invaluable opportunity for Connor.”
This semester a new set of kinesiology students will get the opportunity to work with children with disabilities. Driver will teach two sections of the course, one from 2 to 4:50 p.m. on Tuesdays and one from 2 to 4:50 p.m. on Thursdays. Driver’s students will get their first opportunity to interact with the children the week of Sept. 8.
“As the number of children and adults with disabilities keeps increasing it is really important to train our future educators and allied health professionals how to meet their unique needs. A great way of doing this is through service learning in classes, which provides practical and observational opportunities to KHPR students so they are better prepared once they graduate.”
The success of Kinesiology 3020 has encouraged Driver to pursue other partnerships with local community agencies to meet the need of individuals with disabilities. Driver plans to start a new program for teenagers with disabilities in spring 2010 as part of his graduate course Kinesiology 5310. The program will be the next step for children who have “graduated” Kinesiology 3020, and will focus on aerobic and resistance training.
Driver also is participating in the development of a Disability and Well-being Lab on the UNT campus, which is a collaborative project with the department of Rehabilitation, Social Work, and Addiction. The center will primarily meet the needs of adults with disabilities.
For more information about this program contact Driver at firstname.lastname@example.org or 940-565-3403.