President’s Corner: May

Motor Activities Training Program: Empowering Athletes at Special Olympics Maryland

On May 31st, Cedar Lane School hosted another inspiring Challenge Day, showcasing the impact of the Motor Activities Training Program (MATP) on athletes with intellectual and physical disabilities. Held at the Cedar Lane School, this event highlighted the dedication and progress of athletes, their families, and the school community, led for the last 15 years by Principal Paul Owens.

The Challenge Day was planned and organized by Jody Duff, a Certified Adapted Physical Educator whose passion for her students led to an incredible day of creative sport-themed activities that showcased their unique abilities. The school was transformed into an arena of joy and accomplishment, with stations set up for different exercises and games that challenged and delighted the athletes and the teachers and family members who supported them.

Athletes engaged in activities like the soccer penalty kick with a draw-string-pull to release a “PVC pipe leg” with a cleat attached that kicked the soccer ball toward a goal defended by a mechanized goalkeeper. The thoughtful creativity of Coach Duff ensured that each athlete had a high-quality, meaningful experience as they moved through the series of stations that included a remote-controlled disc golf hole, an axe throwing station, a bowling station, and a mini-trampoline, and a stationary bike station among others. The activity tested their motor skills and fostered a sense of achievement and confidence. Each station was designed to be inclusive and adaptable, ensuring every participant could experience success and the thrill of competition. Every athlete was recognized with a Challenge Medal, signifying personal best achievement.

The Heart of MATP

The Motor Activities Training Program is critically important as it demonstrates our commitment to including athletes of all ability levels. We have athletes with significant intellectual and physical challenges that limit their ability to compete according to traditional sports rules or even with the slight modifications that we employ. MATP was initiated in the 1980s to provide a range of adaptive sports-themed activities focused on developing fundamental motor skills, improving physical fitness, and enhancing these athletes’ overall quality of life.

MATP’s philosophy is rooted in inclusivity and personalization. Coaches and volunteers work closely with each athlete, creating individualized training plans that respect their unique abilities and challenges. This approach ensures that every participant can progress at their own pace, celebrating small victories that lead to greater self-esteem and social interaction. At Cedar Lane, it’s part of the broader curriculum, and the Challenge Day at Cedar Lane showcased these athletes and their skills.

Transforming Lives Through Movement

The impact of MATP on the lives of athletes is far-reaching. For many, the program is not just about physical development but also about social and emotional growth. Athletes who participate in MATP often experience:

  1. Transferable Motor Skill Development: Teachers and coaches use sports to develop essential motor skills like grasp, release, and range of motion that support daily life skills. Sports and creative activities complement traditional therapies by providing athletes with a unique and fun environment.  MATP has the potential to contribute to developing skills used in everyday activities that we take for granted, such as self-feeding or dressing.
  2. Improved Physical Health: Regular physical activity helps enhance strength, coordination, and overall fitness, leading to better health outcomes and increased mobility.
  3. Increased Self-Esteem: Achieving personal goals and receiving recognition boosts athletes’ confidence, empowering them to take on new challenges both within and outside the program.
  4. Community Integration: Events like the Cedar Lane School Challenge Day bring together families, friends, and community members, fostering a sense of belonging and support.

A Community Effort

The success of MATP and events like the Cedar Lane School Challenge Day would not be possible without the dedication of administrators, teachers, therapists, nurses, paraprofessionals, and family members, all of whom contribute to the mission of Cedar Lane School.  Their commitment to creating an inclusive environment where every athlete can thrive is commendable.

Special Olympics Maryland extends heartfelt thanks to everyone involved in making the Cedar Lane School Challenge Day a memorable occasion. Your efforts help transform the lives of athletes, providing them with opportunities to grow, succeed, and shine through sport.

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