When Englewood resident Heather Roberts was in the third trimester of her pregnancy, her daughter Violet suffered a pediatric stroke on the left side of her brain. As a result of that stroke, Violet …
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When Englewood resident Heather Roberts was in the third trimester of her pregnancy, her daughter Violet suffered a pediatric stroke on the left side of her brain. As a result of that stroke, Violet has cerebral palsy, a group of disorders affecting movement and muscle tone or posture.
As Violet was attending Englewood's Maddox Early Childhood Education Center preschool, Roberts introduced the school to the Young Athletes program in 2016 — a sports play program designed for children ages two and a half to seven years old who have intellectual disabilities and for those who are not disabled. Roberts thought it would be good for the school because it teaches inclusivity and helps students stay active. Since Roberts introduced the program to Maddox, it's been so successful that the preschool was inducted into the Special Olympics Colorado Hall of Fame in October.
“It shows that (the Maddox Early Childhood Education Center is) leading by example of how everybody should be treated. It starts from day one,” said Roberts. “All of us need to be able to recognize differences, to have fun and not be left out.”
At Maddox, the Young Athletes program focuses on movement for all children. Students at the school who attend half days get at least 30 minutes a day of outdoor movement time while full-day students get one hour. The Young Athletes program at the school involves obstacle courses, dancing, playing chase, running laps, playing with balls and more. When students participate in those activities, they don't only exercise, but they learn gross motor skills and how to get along with each other, no matter who they are.
“We truly believe kids learn best during play. Our building philosophy is we teach academics and social emotional skills in addition to life skills,” said Leigh Pytlinski, director at the Maddox Early Childhood Education Center. “Being inducted (into the Special Olympics Colorado Hall of Fame) aligns directly with our belief that all children should be integrated together.”
Maddox opened in its new building at the beginning of the year. It has 232 children who attend the school and between 60 to 70 of its students have special education needs.
“They're just one of the schools that have emulated the unified component and are making sure that every child is included, regardless of what disability they have. It's a model program for the inclusive goal of ours,” said Mandi DeWitt, the director of the Young Athletes program at Special Olympics Colorado.
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