The Superstars of today
MUNCY – Never before has something like this been offered in the county until fitness instructor, Diana Logan approached the Eastern Lycoming YMCA last fall to offer a class for children with special needs.
Mark Casson, YMCA executive director, was very supportive with the idea and the program itself. He called it a community outreach program and said, “Let’s offer it for free whether they are a member or not.”
Since September every Saturday morning at 10 a.m. parents bring their ‘Superstars’ to an hour class of movement and fun. “And it keeps growing,” said Logan regarding the size of the class which is currently in the fitness room of the facility, but she said it won’t be long before they will need to move to the gym.
For not only do the special needs children benefit from this program, but their siblings like to come and participate with them as well.
Adam Alexander said that his son, Blaise, who has asperger syndrome, really enjoys the class and looks forward to Saturday. His younger sister likes to come with him to not only compete with him for coordination and stamina, but she also likes to cheer him on.
“This program is awesome. From this they get social skills, physical skills and parents get to network,” said Scott Brown, from Hughesville who brings his 15 year old daughter Amanda, and is a delight to have in class according to Logan. “I found many options and support for my daughter by talking with other parents who have children with disabilities,” Brown said. “This program is helping to expose our children to the community.”
Logan keeps everyone moving. The music is upbeat, the kids love it and they all feel special as Logan awards them with affirmations and a positive attitude bearing camaraderie and friendships among the 17 ‘Superstars.’
Each week they work on hand and eye coordination, agility, motor skills and building strength. “The group is important to these kids,” Logan said. Each child has a chance to lead and build relationships.
Starting with a warm-up, the group circles around clapping and jumping to upbeat music. Parents and caregivers participate too if they wish. Some activities involve bouncing and dribbling a ball, grabbing a buddy and keeping the ball going back and forth, catching it and throwing it. Jade Parker from Williamsport is deaf and likes to bring her aunt, Patty Schick from Muncy to join with her in all of the activities. “We come every Saturday,” Schick said. “Diana Logan makes these kids feel really special. She knows all of their names and makes them feel good in class.”
Tammy St. James from Montgomery brings her 12 year old son to help with the group every week because he wants to work with autistic children someday. Helpers buddy up with the kids during the activities.
While playing “Who let the dogs out” the children and helpers come to a circle and each one gets a chance to perform a skill or whatever makes them feel comfortable inside the circle. They even do a Zumba number. Jason Long from Montoursville says this is his favorite part as he wears his sunglasses and claps to the beat of the music.
Each week Logan tries different drills with them. Ages range from kindergarten through high school. Her two daughters, Erica and Amber come along to assist and help lead. “It’s a great opportunity to bring kids in from the community for the social and recreational aspect of this program,” said Erica Logan who is majoring in special ed and elementary education at Lock Haven University. “We need some non-verbal sports for these kids,” said her mother. Her daughters are volunteering and they enjoy coming. “It gives them one-on-one life lessons,” she said. Amber agrees that the program has built friendships with each other and reminds us that everyone in the community is welcome, no matter what their special needs are.
Those who come gain a sense of acceptance and belonging. They greet each other when arriving in the foyer. “We’re excited about this new venture at the Y. And we hope to find connections among other social agencies to use this class to build confidence and relationships,” added Logan. “And it works,” said Brown. It is a great support system. “And Logan truly makes these kids feel like a Superstar,” answered Schick.