Something wonderful is happening at The Trellis School. Adaptive Physical Education Teacher, Ian Mitchell has created a 6 week long lacrosse program for the children at Trellis.
On Saturday mornings, Mitchell and a group of volunteers work together to orchestrate a fun lacrosse session for some of the students from Trellis. Mitchell himself has worked at Trellis for almost 3 years. On top of his position of Adaptive Physical Education Teacher, he is also the Program Manager for the Therapeutic Integration Program at the Sparks location. The volunteers for the lacrosse program consist of other Trellis employees, Mitchell’s son, and a few of his son’s lacrosse teammates. Although this first session, which concludes on June 3rd, is only open to Trellis School students and related services clients, Mitchell hopes to open future programs to more families.
A typical session consists of modified games that help the children reinforce the skills that are already taught. “The best way to describe our sessions is ‘Organized Chaos!’” commented Mitchell. “Our sessions are very fast-paced, and we change things quickly so [the kids] don’t lose interest.” The activities start as soon as the kids enter the gym at Trellis. Immediately, Mitchell and the volunteers direct the kids to start an activity as a warm-up. This activity is usually a previously learned skill that they perform on their own. Next, Mitchell reviews what they did in past sessions, and the children practice these skills through various fun games. After the review, Mitchell guides the kids through new skills, which are first demonstrated to them by the instructors. When the demonstration is over, the children try these new skills with a little help from Mitchell and the other volunteers. The session comes to a close with a fun group game that gets everyone involved.
The equipment used for the program is modified to fit the children of Trellis. Instead of the usual lacrosse ball and stick, Mitchell’s group uses a soft ball and small lacrosse stick. The smaller stick is easier for the kids to use, and the soft ball alleviates fear of injury. Because of the soft ball and gentle nature of the activities, the children do not wear helmets or other equipment.
Mitchell says he was inspired by his love of lacrosse to create this program. He said he felt a desire to share his passion for this sport with the kids that he teaches. Physical activity for children with Autism Spectrum Disorder is particularly important because problems such as obesity and inactivity occur at higher rates in those with ASD. On top of the physical health benefits that come with exercise for children with ASD, research has also shown that physical activity has led to behavioral improvements. In their article “Promoting Physical Activity for Students with Autism Spectrum Disorder: Barriers, Benefits, and Strategies for Success,” Menear and Neumeier say, “Further research with exercise interventions supports the claim that exercise decreases disruptive behaviors in the short term for children with ASD.” Caitlin Sprouse, Occupational Therapist and Director of Related Services for Trellis Services commented, “Movement input from participating in sports gives great sensory input to all kids who love to move! Practicing lacrosse skills gives kids the opportunity to work on lots of motor planning as well.”
For Mitchell, however, the best part of the program is “seeing the kids smile!” As for future plans, Mitchell hopes to see his program grow and to see more kids involved. He also would like to eventually do other programs with other sports as well, particularly soccer. Ian Mitchell is always looking for qualified volunteers to help with this program. Those interested can contact Ian Mitchell at firstname.lastname@example.org.