Y Inclusion Programs Help Build Strength & Confidence
Emily Hauser-Smith visualizes the YMCA as a large spider web: The Y serves from its center to connect members with vital resources in and out of the organization. As a “Y member forever,” Emily says she and her family experience the personal, caring connections the Y creates, particularly for her son Adrian, who has disabilities. The Y offers an inclusive environment that provides 10-year-old Adrian with activities kids his age enjoy. When he was younger, he had a blast riding his bike on the indoor track.
Today Adrian swims and lifts weights twice a week where Y staff members motivate Adrian to explore out of his comfort zone. Liz Poh, Houser Y Aquatics Director, connected Adrian with an outstanding swimming instructor, McKenzie, who gives him adaptive swimming lessons. “McKenzie does such a great job with Adrian,” Emily says. “Swimming has made a big difference in his life.” Out of his wheelchair, Adrian swims like a fish, which builds his confidence. Adrian says he likes swimming so much that his 40-minute lesson seems to last about 10 minutes.
Another exciting program the YMCA brought to Adrian is weightlifting. Carrie Ingish, YMCA Inclusion Specialist, and Liz thoroughly researched Adrian’s condition. They then tailored a safe and effective workout for him. “He’s become an empowered athlete,” Emily says. “It’s helping to shape a positive, self-concept for him.” Emily feels impressed with Adrian’s physical and mental improvements from lifting. With his increased strength in his posture and hand control, Adrian can more easily spend time on his old-fashioned typewriter. His vivid imagination freely soars in the “scary” stories he enjoys writing.
Adrian has expressed his creativity in other Y programs, such as Science Kids and Cooking Kids. “He became known as the class jokester, and he had a great time cooking,” Emily says. “He poured and stirred ingredients and learned about healthy eating. We still make the delicious pot pies, which have vegetables.” There’s much more in the spider web than athletic opportunities, Emily points out.
When Adrian is having fun at the Y, Emily gets a chance to take a break too. The importance of this free time cannot be understated. Exercise helps increase this mom’s energy and stamina. She seriously lifts weights: She can dead lift 200 pounds. She needs this strength for assisting Adrian physically, such as lifting him. Emily also values the friendships she’s created with other parents of children with disabilities.
Emily and her husband Charlie are very involved in all four of their children’s activities. Each has benefited from a variety of Y activities. Two teenage sons, Alex and Gorden, gained a solid foundation for fitness that trained them to excel in high school sports. Their youngest son, Ivan, age eight, has enjoyed swim lessons, flag football, baseball, and basketball. It’s obvious that Adrian and Ivan enjoy spending time together at the Y, as they chatter and joke around like any close-knit brothers. Adrian’s favorite part of going to the Y is spending time with friends and family. He especially loves going into the Prime Time Center. “It promotes his independence to be in there,” Emily says. “I know he’s safe. Thanks to the Y, Adrian has such a warm group of people in his network.”
– By Kim Seidel, writer/editor, Y member, Seidel Ink LLC