Sports Buddy Program for Special Needs Kids in Chicago in the News
Inclusion companions work to make sure young athletes with special needs included
[Source: Chicago Tribune]
Like many basketball players, 8-year-old Ariana Ferruzza would much rather score than play defense. So when she lingered under the basket one recent Saturday as the action went the other way, a voice from the bench called out: “Ariana, you’ve got to get back!”
The instruction wasn’t coming from an ordinary coach, because Ariana isn’t an ordinary athlete: She has autism, a condition that interferes with her concentration. Yet with a little help, she has been able to keep up with her typically developing friends.
An adult aide serves as Ariana’s personal Pat Riley, keeping her engaged with the game and mindful of the head coach’s commands. The assistance has allowed Ariana, a ponytailed dynamo from Carol Stream, to share the athletic experiences that are a rite of childhood.
“She gets to participate with kids she has known since she was born,” said her mother, Lisa Ferruzza. “All the kids from the neighborhood play in the regular league. It’s very social for her. She gains a lot of independence, and she enjoys it.”
Children with disabilities were long ago integrated into mainstream classrooms in pursuit of a better education. Now a growing number of parents expect comparable integration on the playing field.
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