×
×
homepage logo

Weber State disability support program sees increased enrollment, interest

By Anna Burleson, Standard-Examiner Staff - | Feb 15, 2017
1 / 4

Annisten Vining, 8, smiles as she and Weber State student Maddi Smith, left, play on the floor of a gym Tuesday, Feb. 14, 2017, inside the school’s Stromburg Complex in Ogden. The two were there as part of the Children’s Adaptive Physical Education Society program, which pairs Weber State students together with children who have developmental disabilities.

2 / 4

Ben Kuculyn, 9, listens as Weber State student Jeremy Maxwell, left, talks technique Tuesday, Feb. 14, 2017, while shooting hoops at a gym inside the Stromburg Complex in Ogden. The two were there as part of the Children’s Adaptive Physical Education Society program, which pairs Weber State students together with children who have developmental disabilities.

3 / 4

Bryson VanLeeuwen, 9, laughs while playing at the pool inside Swenson Gym Tuesday, Feb. 14, 2017, on the school’s Ogden campus. Bryson is part of the Children’s Adaptive Physical Education Society program, which pairs Weber State students together with children who have developmental disabilities.

4 / 4

Caleb Gunderson, 12, kicks across the pool at Swenson Gym Tuesday, Feb. 14, 2017, at Weber State University’s Ogden campus. Caleb and other children with developmental disabilities were there working with Weber State students as part of the Children’s Adaptive Physical Education Society program.

OGDEN — Every member of the Weber State University Board of Trustees stood to applaud when the two professors who oversee the university’s Children’s Adaptive Physical Education Society program finished their presentation on Tuesday, Feb. 7.

James Zagrodnik, an assistant professor in the Department of Health Promotion and Human Performance, said he was particularly passionate about the program because he grew up with learning disabilities.

CAPES! pairs Weber State students one-on-one with children who have both physical and developmental disabilities every Tuesday night for 10 weeks each semester.

The program includes adaptive dancing lessons, crafts, swimming and other activities aimed at teaching life skills to children with disabilities.

Story continues below photo.

SARAH WELLIVER/Standard-Examiner

Weber State student Amanda Hall, left, helps Sophia Merkeley, 6, with her swim goggles Tuesday, Feb. 14, 2017, at the pool inside Swenson Gym on the Ogden campus. The two were there as part of the Children’s Adaptive Physical Education Society program, which pairs Weber State students together with children who have developmental disabilities.

Zagrodnik grew up in Georgia and struggled with dyslexia. He didn’t learn to speak until about fifth grade and ultimately turned to drugs and alcohol, spending time in jail before turning his life around and getting his master’s and doctorate degrees.

“My experiences in (education) were not all that positive,” he said.

Zagrodnik wanted to use his experiences to help other people succeed and helped create CAPES!, which launched in fall 2013 and serves children ages 5 through 12.

Story continues below photo.

SARAH WELLIVER/Standard-Examiner

Weber State student Alex Nava-Murillo watches as Bryson VanLeeuwen, 9, plays with a plastic fish Tuesday, Feb. 14, 2017, at the pool inside Swenson Gym on the school’s Ogden campus. The two were there as part of the Children’s Adaptive Physical Education Society program, which pairs Weber State students together with children who have developmental disabilities.

From the start of the program to fall 2016, the number of Weber State students participating has increased from 25 to 55, and the number of kids enrolled has increased from 21 to 36.

Natalie Williams, as associate professor in the Department of Teacher Education who runs the program alongside Zagrodnik, said families are encouraged to bring all of their children, including those who don’t have disabilities, on nights where there are enough Weber State students there to assist.

About 60 percent of the children who attend CAPES! have diagnosed autism, but Williams said they have a wide variety of other disabilities as well.

Williams held back tears Tuesday as she talked about the positive impact CAPES! has had on families. She said it was the best thing she had done in her entire career.

Story continues below photo. 

SARAH WELLIVER/Standard-Examiner

Weber State student Cody Barnes, left, encourages Melanie Child, 10, to run to the next base during a game of kickball Tuesday, Feb. 14, 2017, at a racquetball court inside the Stromburg Complex at the school’s Ogden campus. As part of the Children’s Adaptive Physical Education Society program, Weber State students are paired together with children who have developmental disabilities.

“It’s a Weber State student, it’s a child with a disability and their parents who are benefiting and we just get to step back and watch the magic happen every week,” she said.

CAPES! costs $25 per semester per child. Zagrodnik said the program has been funded with grants for the most part, but their goal is to create an endowment fund of $50,000, which would sustain CAPES! in its current form indefinitely.

But with more money, Zagrodnik said CAPES! could be expanded to include a summer adventure camp, CAPES! Extreme, with adaptive hiking and horseback riding.

“We have these ideas but we don’t have the funds,” he said.

CAPES has plans to partner with Ogden-based Mentor Mowing and partner children who age out of the program with a Weber State student mentor as they learn lawn care skills.

Contact education reporter Anna Burleson at aburleson@standard.net. Follow her on Twitter at @AnnagatorB or like her on Facebook at Facebook.com/BurlesonReports.

Newsletter

Join thousands already receiving our daily newsletter.

I'm interested in (please check all that apply)