A Texas A&M University program is providing Aggie health and kinesiology majors with invaluable hands-on training for their future careers, while also giving local children with disabilities a venue for exercise and entertainment.
SPLASH, the Texas A&M Special Populations Learn Aquatics with Aggie Students Helping, is a water activity program designed to prepare undergraduate majors in health and kinesiology for working with children with disabilities.
During the five-week program, Aggie students perform an assessment of each child's swimming skills and develop lesson plans to guide each week’s activities.
Lucinda Thelen, an instructional professor in the Department of Health and Kinesiology at Texas A&M, coordinates students in her adapted physical activity course to act as Aggie buddies during SPLASH.
“SPLASH allows our students to work one-on-one with an individual with a disability and form a personal connection,” said Thelen. “Any time students can do hands on work, the learning factor escalates.”
Many students have not had the opportunity to work with people with disabilities before entering Thelen’s class, an upper-level course that is designed to prepare Aggies entering the health profession for working with and accommodating for individuals with disabilities.
“It never fails that after the first session, the overwhelming response is that their participant is a just like any other kid,” said Thelen. “That lets me know that the class has succeeded. We now have future educators that will see the person first instead of the disability first.”
Lisa Abrameit ’12 is a kinesiology major and teaching assistant for Thelen’s class.
“SPLASH is a wonderful opportunity for both Aggie students in the adapted physical activity course and the kids they work with,” said Abrameit. “Aggies are able to apply what they learned in the classroom to a real individual; and the children are given the opportunity to develop new swimming and social skills.”
One such student is Marki Zatopek ’12, a senior physical education major who hopes to coach high school softball after graduation.
“SPLASH increased my patience and taught me effective ways to incorporate modifications in my lesson plans to fit the needs of each child in my class,” said Zatopek. “Feeling comfortable working with children with disabilities now will help me feel prepared, capable and ready to work with children in my own classroom in the near future.”
Abrameit and Zatopek agree that with the right motivational strategies and support, the children involved in SPLASH can go above and beyond what is expected of them.
“Not only do the Aggies fall in love with SPLASH, but local children in the program are counting down the days until Tuesday night comes,” said Abrameit.
About SPLASH at Texas A&M
SPLASH consists of two sessions each fall and spring semester. Classes meet Tuesday nights for five consecutive weeks from 6:30 p.m. – 7:30 p.m. at the Rec Center Instructional Pool on the Texas A&M campus. The cost is $55 per session. Participants must be between the ages of 5 -21.