Pelham School District Introduces Special Olympics Young Athlete’s Program

February 14, 2014

Staff photo by Rhiannon Snide From the left are Tim Mooneyhan, Kayla Beisang, Lexi Kfoury, Valerie Morse, Pam Ferreira, Kaleigh Gordon, Jenna Bailey (age 4), Brianna Belley and Heather DeFranzo

by Rhiannon Snide, Pelham High School Intern

Pelham’s public schools house a variety of programs for special needs students.  Between private tutoring, choice of sports activities, and one on one experiences with trained and educated special needs teachers, it isn’t hard for students to become well-rounded and engaged.  However, before they enter the classroom these programs are minimal.

Valerie Morse, Pelham High School’s Dean of Special Education, is on a mission to replenish this lack of opportunity.  Through the help of Miranda Morse and Bill Jones, both employees of Special Olympics, she discovered a program to help develop both cognitive and motor skills in special needs kids before they enter school.  After more research, and contact with the Special Olympics, Mrs. Morse has brought the Special Olympics Young Athletes Program (YAP) to Pelham.

The YAP brings students with and without disabilities between the ages of two and seven, together to participate in varying foundational sport activities.  Each session will be held in the Pelham Elementary gymnasium and will vary in activities based on graduating levels of complexity.  Sessions will begin on March 3 with basic running and walking skills and will proceed from 4:30 to 5:30 every Monday night until April 21, finishing with a celebration to honor the students participating.  Mrs. Morse believes this incoming program will be “a great opportunity for children with special needs to develop their cognitive, communication, and motor skills.  Equally important, it promotes understanding, acceptance, role modeling, and social relationships when children without disabilities are included.”  The YAP is of no cost to families attending, as it is run by volunteers only and the Special Olympics has funded the program enough to support about $1,000 worth of equipment.

Mrs. Morse’s collaboration with the Special Olympics, although on route for success isn’t quite complete.  The preferred one on one experience with the students won’t be obtained without more volunteers.  Parents, students, or anyone interested in special education are welcome.  Questions or information about the program can be found through Mrs. Morse by E-mail at vmorse@pelhamsd.org or by phone at 635-6901.  Interested members or volunteers are urged to call and learn more about the program.  Thanks to the hard work of Mrs. Morse, the YAP will be the first of, hopefully, many more opportunities for special needs students in Pelham.