The Department of Kinesiology creates new service learning project

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Dr. Maureen Connolly is a professor in the department of Kinesiology and the faculty coordinated for the Adaptive Physical Activity at an association for community living (APA at ACL) program. In order to help adults in the St. Catharines community who have intellectual developmental disabilities have those real choices, members of the Department of Kinesiology, Southern Network of Specialized Care and Community Living St. Catharines came together to create a service learning project for Brock students to participate in.

The idea was first proposed by James Hall, President of the Kinesiology Students’ Association. During one of the presentations for the Med Plus program run at Brock, Hall heard from a local psychiatrist who works at Bethesda and Michael G DeGroote School of Medicine, McMaster University’s Niagara Regional Campus about The Curriculum of Caring. The Curriculum of Caring was developed to increase the comfort, confidence and competence of healthcare students when providing healthcare for people with developmental disabilities.

After hearing the presentation, Hall thought there was a need for a similar program for Kinesiology students. Hall began talking about the potential for the project with Tom Archer, Health Care Facilitator in the Southern Network of Specialized Care, Joanne Caldwell, Community Development Facilitator at Community Living St. Catharines and Dr. Connolly to plan and coordinate the program.

They ended up developing a service-based learning project. Some of the participating students are involved as a way to earn credit at Brock, while others are doing it solely for the volunteer experience. Before students started working with the participants they underwent six weeks of readings and tutorials in order to be properly prepared to support people with developmental disabilities. The participating students ranged in experience, as some students had done similar programs before while others had not.

The program has been up and running since September. Originally there were six students participating, but currently there are nine, all part of the Kinesiology department. The program occurs every Wednesday from 4:00 p.m until 6:00 p.m. at Community Living St. Catharines.  The students who participate in the program work one on one with an adult who has intellectual developmental disabilities. The adults they work with have a range of disabilities. The program is based on the philosophy of station-based pedagogy. All the large motor skills are broken down into smaller, more manageable movements for the participants. They are also adapted to each individual’s skill level.

Through the program, students have learned a variety of professional development skills: how to be a good practitioner, communicating with participants, adapting when things are not going as planned, knowing when to ask for help or when to take initiative. The students have also commented about the strong emotional connection they have developed with the participants they help. “I have also gained a confidence in my own abilities as a kinesiology student, as I have seen how a tailored, purposeful intervention can create tangible, meaningful changes in our participants lives. Seeing their success, and their pride surrounding their accomplishments has brought me a great deal of joy,” Kirsten Lynn Frank, one of the student volunteers, adds.

The participants have also seen many benefits from the program. Many of the participants are now able to confidently accomplish movements they used to struggle with. One participant was recently able to get up from the floor by herself for the first time in a long time.

The plan is for the program to continue to run next year and for it to expand as much as possible. Although the current volunteers are all Kinesiology students, the program will not be limited by faculty.

Those interested in finding out more about the program can contact James Hall at jh12ff@brocku.ca.

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