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Special Olympics focuses on the whole athlete

Stillwater NewsPress - 5/19/2017

May 19--When people think of the Special Olympics Oklahoma Summer Games, they often picture weightlifting, bocce and track and field events, but Special Olympics is as much about socializing as athletics. It's also a place you'll find programs like Healthy Athletes, which focuses on health screenings and the Motor Activities competition.

Healthy Athletes volunteers usually come from area health care facilities, doctors' offices or training programs like the University of Oklahoma Audiology program located at the OU Health Science Center.

Graduate and undergraduate audiology students turned out Thursday to provide hearing screenings for athletes, their families and anyone else who was interested.

At noon, audiology graduate student Caitlin Aust, a former OSU student, said they had screened about 100 people so far.

Kari Weaver, of Muldrow, has been volunteering with Special Olympics for 28 years and Debbie Nobles, of Sand Springs, has volunteered for 37 years.

They both light up when given the opportunity to talk about the Motor Activities competition and the participants they call "our kids."

Motor Activities provides people who have multiple disabilities that prevent them from competing in typical Special Olympics events like track and field with opportunities to challenge themselves.

They range from grasping and lifting a wooden block, to kicking or throwing a ball, to testing themselves in a modified race, where wheelchair-bound athletes see how far they can crawl across a mat.

The activities mimic other Special Olympics events but are tailored to the abilities of each participant, Nobles said.

Athletes with profound physical limitations might be asked to perform tasks that would be simple for others, like rolling over or lifting their heads while laying on the ground, but are accomplishments for them.

It's designed to develop their fine motor skills, locomotor skills and gross motor skills and give them a sense of accomplishment.

D.J. Mitchell is a student at Tulsa Memorial High School who earned a silver and bronze medal in kicking for distance and distance ball roll during the Motor Activities competition.

"It's his first Special Olympics and he picked up two medals and all the girls," Mitchell's paraprofessional aide Alan Parker said. "He's all about the girls."

Tulsa Memorial Special Olympics team head coach Janet Parker said she looks forward to Motor Activities.

"It's the best competition," she said.

Weaver loves the family atmosphere that dominates at Motor Activities because every participant brings their own entourage of supporters.

When asked to name their favorite things about working with the Motor Activities competition, Weaver and Nobles began ticking off the names of the 16 athletes who participated this year.

"Every single one of them," Weaver said. "You look at their faces and you wouldn't do anything else ... They'll just steal your heart, so you'd better beware."

Twitter: @mcharlesNP


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