KIPP Texas schools in San Antonio have dozens of new student-athletes this year, as approximately 40 students are participating in the Special Olympics’ Unified Champion Schools (UCS) program that the district implemented this school year. USC promotes the social inclusion of students with intellectual disabilities through inclusive activities with a schoolwide approach.
With sports as the foundation, the UCS program offers a combination of activities and games that equip students with tools and training to create sports, classrooms, and school climates of acceptance. In October, students began playing basketball.
“They love to move. The sport doesn’t matter to them. They just need space, and they will make the best of it,” said Bridget Galvan, KIPP Texas–San Antonio Athletic Director.
Usually, these students have an individualized schedule the entire school day while ensuring time with their general education peers. Physical education is different for each student because they may need individualized accommodations. Some students have PE with their class, and some have PE individually due to their specific needs.
“Students can come together all at the same time to the gym or the soccer field, wherever their practice may be on that day. And then they all have that 30 minutes where they’re being physically active and practicing on skills like dribbling or passing or shooting in basketball,” said Galvan.
Galvan said flexibility is paramount, whether it is utilizing individualized instruction to suit the strengths of each student-athlete or making allowances for skills that are difficult to master.
“We understand that some of the students have not gotten the sport, and they may or may need extra practice. We also understand that the sport may not look the same as the traditional sport since we have to make modifications for the students, and each campus has a different number of students,” said Bridget Galvan, KIPP Texas–San Antonio Athletic Director.
Galvan said this year, students are focusing on skills and not competitions.
Together with the Special Olympics, KIPP Texas–San Antonio can truly provide a joyful, academically excellent learning environment to ensure our students feel welcome and included in all activities, opportunities, and functions. The program will be woven into the fabric of our schools, enhancing our current efforts and providing rich opportunities that lead to meaningful change in creating a socially inclusive school that supports and engages all of our KIPPsters.
Research shows that when children with disabilities participate in sports and physical activity programs, it can promote physical, emotional, and social well-being. Like academic achievements, these areas of development are significant for success in the future.