Originally published Dec. 5, 2019 in the Lee Clarion.

By Megan Jones

Lee University has partnered with Trousdale School to create a two-week adaptive physical education program that helps strengthen the mental and physical skills of people with special needs.

Senior Lecturer in Physical Education Pam Womack leads the program that works with students from Trousdale.

“This program is one of the greatest learning experiences I have ever been a part of,” said Womack. “It has blessed and stretched me in so many ways. The Trousdale students are so incredible, and they change the lives of everyone who meets them. We have as much to learn from them as they do from us.”

The two-week program occurs every fall semester, often with returning leaders. Leah Wilson, a P.E. teacher at Trousdale, has been involved in the program for almost eight years.

“It is wonderful to see students build abilities from beginning to end,” said Wilson. “This program at Lee allows students to dip their toes into the involvement of the program before they continue the class later on. It is one of the best programs we have.”

The program is run on a trial-and-error basis. Lee participants watch the students and how they adapt to their circumstances. To ensure inclusivity, they use this information to decide how the rest of the program should be run for all students.

“My goal for this physical education class is for everyone to be able to participate,” said Wilson. “The program shows the students what they are capable of. It makes them feel important, and that is crucial. They are important.”

The adaptive physical education class is just as important for those who work it as it is for the students participating. Seeing the Trousdale students thrive is inspiring for those who look on.

“Every one of my students who have participated in the program have stated that their lives were changed by working with the Trousdale students,” says Womack. “It is such a blessing, and many who have been involved have added special education to their majors.”

Jose Sierra, an elementary education major, has seen the benefits of this program and working with the students impact his own calling.

“I loved working with the Trousdale students,” said Sierra. “Meeting Anthony and being his coach was especially life-changing. Being around them is a great feeling. The energy they give us is all positive. I hope in the future I am able to work with them again.”

Wilson also stresses special needs people are as able as everyone else.

“People with disabilities are just as capable as anyone else,” says Wilson. “It just takes time to figure out their strengths and personalities. You have to find the positives because they’re there. They have so much potential.”

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