Sunday, May 8, 2011

Getting Outside on a Beautiful Day, Being Active and Making Money!

Today, Junior and I decided to get out and enjoy the beautiful 65 degree weather and sunny skies! We took a short 15 minute drive to Dwyer Park in Little York, NY which is just after Homer, NY. Dwyer is a great park with all sorts to do for people to get out and be active and enjoy the company of friends and family. There's playgrounds, a lake, a ball field, basketball hoops, walking paths, tons of BBQ's, a few pavilions, a bunch of fire pits and loads of space to be active. I had no idea such a nice place existed which goes to show you that there is probably more ways to be active than you think. You just need to do some searching and talk to your local parks and recreation people.
While at the park we did a few activities. We went exploring by going for a short run with a few races mixed in. We played on the play grounds and swings and tossed the Frisbee around. Then Junior mentioned he would like to pick up some cans so he can return them and get money from recycling. We talked about how its good to get the money, recycling helps the environment, and he can be active by going for walks as he is searching. Lastly we went over cleanliness matters and made sure we sanitized our hands. At the end of the day, Junior said, "Nick I really had fun today!" It was great to hear him say that and I look forward to heading back to Dwyer Park in Little York some day in the future, I might bring my family there after graduation in a few weeks.

Teaching to His Interests

It is very apparent that Junior loves video games. Every time we meet he is telling me about what he did in his "Meet the Robinsons" game and he asks me if we can play it together. I have to encourage him to try and be active instead of sitting in front of the TV playing games. By setting up activities for Junior to do, I am able to get him to increase his activity levels. However, I get the feeling that when he is home, he isn't taking the initiative to be active. He tells me he has been doing his push-ups, lunges, crunches, squats and other calisthenics at home but I'm not too convinced.
Therefore I am giving him more opportunities to be active with video games through "xbox kinect!" I can see him getting his hands on a Kinect system in the future through some kind of present because he already has a bunch of games. He really enjoys playing the Kinect so I think this will be a great source of activity for him in the future. We were playing Kinect Adventures and he was really enjoying the raft game and this bubble popping game which got him moving his whole body as you can see in the video clip below. The Exergames really get Junior moving and I asked him if he could feel his pulse increasing from when he was resting to when he was playing and he could feel his heart rate speeding up! Since this is an activity he really enjoys and can increase his fitness I am going to encourage him to continue. He can also play these games with his peers which would be a great addition of social interaction.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Junior Wins!!!

Practice is surely paying off as Junior outscored me 115 to 99 yesterday at the 281 bowling alley. As I struggled Junior was showing me how to bowl as he averaged 8 or 9 pins on every frame! We had a great day and it was nice to finally get to bowl at the 281 Bowling alley, Juniors favorite bowling alley. Although the technology may be a little older than Cort-lanes, the shoes and bowling balls are much better. The shoes were much nicer and there were several light weight bowling balls for children and those who lack muscular strength to use. It was definitely our best day bowling and Junior was keeping up with good form with small reminders!
We tried to meet last week but Junior was feeling a little ill which he said was caused by the heat. I planned on taking him to the "Taste of the Caribbean" celebration on campus for a free dinner and then bowling. Junior said he would try but when we got to the "Taste of the Caribbean" Junior wanted no part of it. I was trying to explain to him how we could learn something new about another culture and get some free food which sounded excellent to me but once we got there Junior wanted to leave instantly. Now I know some situations may be difficult for an individual with autism but I had to stand my ground. Junior first told me he felt sick and wanted to leave. Then he said he wanted to go bowling. I told him if he was feeling too sick to learn about this culture for ten minutes he is too sick to go bowling. I gave him several chances to think and make sure that he wanted to go home because he felt sick but I refused to give in and just take him bowling because he wanted to. I have caught him in a few lies in the past and I wanted to demonstrate to him that I will not be manipulated. We decided to go home and meet again on Sunday. That is when we went bowling and we had a great day so sometimes you will experience some difficulties but patience and persistence pays off!

Friday, April 22, 2011

Horseback Riding aka Hippotherapy is a Big Time Hit!

This past weekend, Strawberry Fields Ranch in Cortland, NY held a fundraiser encouraging individuals with disabilities to come out and enjoy Hippotherapy. The American Hippotherapy Association Inc. (AHA, Inc.) promotes the use of the movement of the horse as a treatment strategy in physical, occupational and speech-language therapy sessions for people living with disabilities. Hippotherapy has been shown to improve muscle tone, balance, posture, coordination, motor development as well as emotional well-being. For only $10 Junior and I attended the event in which we played some barn games, made some arts and crafts, enjoyed some snacks, and Junior spent about 45 minutes riding horses!

Junior has never experienced anything like he did at Strawberry Fields and he absolutely loved it. We played kickball in the barn, ran some relay races, made a sign for his room and then things really took off when he was able to ride two different horses. Junior enjoyed playing with his peers and doing something he has never done before. He claimed he was "a little scared" as he was quickly jumping on the horse but seconds later he was saying how he wanted to go fast! Junior learned some terms to control the two horses Max and Danny such as a clicking sound from the mouth to signal "go" and saying "woah" to signal "stop!" Junior was able to pet the horses, feed them carrots and he even gave them some hugs and kisses. As you can tell from the pictures, Junior had an absolute blast. His love for animals truly shows and all the students who got on the horses proved how beneficial hippotherapy is.

In the future, I strongly recommend for other mentors to bring their mentee's to the program. The staff at Strawberry Fields absolutely loved how the day went and they mentioned that they wouldn't mind doing something like this twice a year!

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Bowling Progress is Opening New Doors!

Yesterday was definitely one of our better sessions! I am seeing consistently huge progress in his bowling technique. We finally received permission for Junior to use the Fitness Facility at SUNY Cortland which Junior has really been looking forward to. I told him straightforward that if we get some efficient bowling practice in first, we will get into the weight room. Instantly Junior was on the ball. He could tell me all the cues for our form, "palm up, stepping with opposition, and release low!" Not only could he recite the cues but he executed the skill with all 3 critical elements on our modified bowling alley in the racquetball courts. We spent about 25 minutes practicing bowling and then we moved onto the weight room which Junior was really looking forward to as you can see with his face of intensity on the exercise bike!

Before entering the weight room I had to talk to Junior about rules including safety, etiquette, cleanliness, intensity and progression. We started off on the bike to warm up nice an easy for 6 minutes. Then we moved onto the elliptical since he was ready to increase his intensity and work on his cardiovascular endurance. After about 5 minutes of work and a push to give me 1 minute of a cool down speed, we were going to move onto some lifting. We worked on the shoulder press, triceps extensions and some biceps curls. Compared to other average 15 year old males, Junior is a lot smaller and is lacking muscular strength and endurance so we had to start very light. I was able to get Junior to agree that we should be focusing on form, more than the weight being lifted.

He became fatigued very easily so I think he is starting to see how much he can improve. The struggle we have to overcome is the fact that he is not used to being physically active. While we are being active, he frequently tells me how he doesn't like getting hot, he doesn't like to sweat, and when he actually starts feeling his muscles working, he thinks his leg or arm fell asleep. He clearly demonstrates a lack of physical activity but Junior can improve by starting out small and progressively moving up the intensity ladder. Our Project Dream goal was to bowl a turkey so we are continually working on that and Junior is definitely making progress, but I am also trying to expose him to other forms of activity so he can find one that is right for him where he will pursue it on his own! I am able to show him with bowling that he can improve when he puts the effort in as he has showed already! My goal is for Junior to realize that he can open his own new doors and be actively successful by putting in the time and effort!

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

PE Teachers Need to Adapt

Many PE teachers are aware that they need to be able to adapt. On a daily basis, lessons are probably not going to run as planned. On Saturday, Junior and I planned on going to the SPCA to walk some dogs. Junior really enjoys playing with animals. Junior has never run around as much as when we were walking the dog Woody. Saturday also turned out to be the nicest day of the Spring semester so far so it was a perfect opportunity to get outside and be active with some dogs.

However, when we got to the SPCA there weren't any dogs, what a total bummer! We definitely wanted to be outside so I quickly thought on my feet and we decided to take about a 2 mile jog/walk to the waterworks and feed the ducks and deer. Once we got to the waterworks I really noticed how much Junior enjoys being around animals. He was having a blast and laughing the entire time as we threw some crackers to the ducks. He talks about his pet bird all the time, loves walking the dogs, and really enjoyed our walk to the Waterworks pond.

Fortunately there is a fundraiser at Strawberry Fields Ranch on Sunday April 17th! At the fundraiser participants can get pony rides and interact with the horses so I am extremely excited for Junior. I don't think he has ever had an opportunity like this and I think he is really going to enjoy it. He has told me he is excited but slightly scared about riding a horse so I am interested in how things will turn out. I am believe Junior will get up on a horse even if he is nervous at first. Junior has really enjoyed working with animals in the past although they have been on a smaller scale. I am really excited for Junior to experience this opportunity and to see how the day unfolds.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Experiencing a Teachable Moment

During my preparation as a Physical Education Teacher Candidate, I learn countless lessons about events that will occur in my future profession. Many of my teachers use the term "teachable moments" when events occurs and we can learn from them for the future. One of the lessons I have learned is that events occurring outside of school, specifically at home, can have an effect on how students behave during lessons. It is important to know this so teachers don't jump to conclusions when trying to figure out student behavior. Luckily, I was told by Junior's mother about some events occurring at home, so I was informed. I was expecting Junior to not act like his usual self because of the changes at home.
A term to describe how Junior was acting would be "Frazzled." He was having a hard time focusing on what I was saying and was even asking me questions like it was the first time we met when we have been together for over 7 weeks now. We went bowling and at first it seemed like we had lost our progress we made since the beginning of Project Dream. Since I knew what was going, I gave him some more leniency than normal. He started out bowling with the ball between his legs and didn't want to hear any of my tips.Then after a few frames he started to listen better after I expressed to him that I was beginning to get disappointed because I know he can do better and he wanted to prove it to me. He started to bowl just like the way we have been working on with the ball on the right side of his body, fingers in the bowling ball holes, and holding the ball with his palm up!The best part was that as he was using the form I was teaching him, his score increased and his last few frames he bowled a 9,7,9 and a spare in the tenth frame. His last 4 frames were his best I have ever seen him bowl! I was happy to see what I was teaching Junior was being reinforced by his score!By being patient and persistent I was able to help Junior succeed. The process was a lot easier and less stressful since I knew about the other events in his life that were occurring recently. At first I was a bit nervous that we were going to have a rough night but I thought about what I have been learning about in Cortland's Phys Ed program. I then felt confident in my ability to adapt and help Junior succeed because of what I have learned and know!