Jul 28, 2014
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YMCA Programs Promote Healthy Living for Youth with Special Needs

YMCA Programs Promote Healthy Living for Youth with Special Needs

The national obesity epidemic has a particularly devastating impact on individuals with special needs. According to government reports, 22.5% of teens with special needs are obese, compared to 16% of teens without disabilities. A major contributing factor for this discrepancy is the shortage of fitness options accessible to young people with special needs. In response, the North Suburban YMCA offers a wide range of teen and young adult programs designed to make exercise manageable, and fun, for this exceptional population.

“We’re committed to providing all our children with fitness classes that keep them strong and healthy,” noted the Y’s Sari Glazebrook. “This year, we’ve partnered with experts in the field to expand our opportunities for people with special needs. These programs are a major component of our new Family Life Education Department.”

For children through high school and beyond, the Y’s “HAWKS” program (“Helping All Wonderful Kids Succeed”) includes dance and yoga classes, as well as two Special Olympics swim teams. The Y also partners with Exercise Connection for fitness classes geared toward both children and adults with autism and other disabilities. These programs are presented in a setting that includes reduced class size, peer mentors, increased structure, a slower pace, and other accommodations.

As of the end of January 2014, many of these programs will located in the Y’s brand new Youth and Family Wellness Center, a dedicated space for young people to discover and enjoy exercise. The 800-square foot Wellness Center will offer specialized equipment, including an innovative TRX fitness system. The new facility was made possible through generous grants from donors including the UPS Foundation.

As Director of the Family Life Education Department, Glazebrook uses her expertise as a social worker to address the challenges of helping individuals with special needs stay active and healthy. “Maintaining a healthy weight is tough for many of us, but people with disabilities face extra obstacles such as medication side effects, limited cognitive functioning, and fewer participation opportunities,” she notes. “Our goal is to provide the tools and the support that each person needs. It’s gratifying to see our students grow in confidence and enthusiasm through our programs.”

Registration for North Suburban YMCA Winter and Spring Session programs is now open. To learn more about special needs classes and all other Y programming, visit  www.nsymca.org or contact Sari Glazebrook, sglazebrook@nsymca.org.

About the North Suburban YMCA

The North Suburban YMCA is a not-for-profit entity and relies on donations to fund capital improvements and transform the facility. All board members are community volunteers, who donate their time, talents and financial resources.  Located at 2705 Techny Road in Northbrook, the YMCA has served area families in its fifteen-city region for over 45 years.  The Y is about youth development, healthy living, and social responsibility, providing programs and services that meet the needs of our community and are accessible to all.  For more information or to make a donation, contact Barb Flanagin at 847 272 7250, bflanagin@nsymca.org, or visit  www.nsymca.org.

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