Anne Bridgman is an Occupational Therapist who works in the Papanui High School in Christchurch that caters for 33 students who have a variety of special needs.
A group of students and staff from the school have been regular Hagley parkrunners over the past couple of years and have improved their health, wellbeing and fitness in that time. The group often have coffee afterwards which really helps to strengthen the community.
Papanui High School would like to inspire other schools and families who have children with special needs to get involved in parkrun.
We are the Kimi Ora Department which is part of Papanui High School in Christchurch. Kimi Ora means ‘in search of health and wellbeing.’ We cater for 33 students who have a variety of special needs. There are four teachers, nine support staff and a therapy team comprising of a speech language therapist, physiotherapist, Occupational Therapist and psychologist.
The Kimi Ora Department provides adapted high school education for 33 students who have a variety of intellectual, physical and sensory needs. These include autism, Down’s syndrome and other genetic conditions, visual and hearing impairment, sensory issues, intellectual disability, anxiety, cerebral palsy.
The students are aged between 13 and 21. We aim to provide opportunities for enrichment through a supportive and positive learning environment. The focus is on developing skills for life so that the young person can contribute and participate fully in the community once leaving school. While the students are based in the special needs department they are integrated into the main school for PE, Food studies, Te Reo, school camps. Connection with staff and students in the main school is strongly encouraged
The students are taught literacy, numeracy, communication skills, how to manage anxiety and emotions, physical fitness and wellbeing and functional life skills such as personal hygiene, food preparation, shopping, bussing, use of technology including mobile phones, safety in the community, dance and work skills.
We first got involved with parkrun through a teacher at school who participate in parkrun invited us to try. We had a team of six athletes training for the National Secondary Schools Cross Country so thought it would be a good way to get together and train. parkrun is also a great opportunity for the students to get used to running in a large group of people.
The number of participants varies from week to week, from six to as many as 20. This usually a variety of staff, students, parents and extended family. Most run, a few walk and we are hoping to volunteer very soon. Two of our student parkrunners have joined the 50 Club.
The effects of parkrun are wide-reaching. The students, teachers, parents and carers who attend are fitter, faster, stronger, have improved confidence, improved results in athletics and other competitive sports, feel connected, calmer, included and we all enjoy the social coffee afterwards and the sense of achievement from PBs and milestones.
There are benefits for the local community too. Acceptance, increased awareness that individuals with disabilities can achieve and participate and the opportunity for the wider community to practice inclusion. Often when parkrunning with a student fellow other parkrunners will encourage us.
As well as parkrun, students have access to two sessions of PE per week, one session of PMP (Perceptual Motor Planning) per week, swimming, basketball, athletics, cross country, Lawn Bowls, Dragon Boating, Duke of Edinburgh, Outward Bound, school camp (which has a big emphasis on physical education), gym programmes, yoga, walks. Special Olympics inter school events are held termly that we attend. Regional Special Olympics Basketball once a year and every four years our basketball team enters the National Special Olympics Tournament.
We attend all School Sport Canterbury Events, including road race, cross country, athletics, boccia and swimming.
We have entered students in the National Secondary Schools Cross Country for the last three years. We have won the six person and three person teams event each year. Students also attend the National Secondary Schools Athletics and Road Race events competing in the parathlete division. We have had students volunteering at an Op shop, we also visit a Retirement village once a week to sing and dance with residents.
If similar schools want to follow in our footsteps we would suggest:
· Find a parkrun that is easily accessible to staff and students
· Establish a core group of motivated parkrunners to set the platform
· Promote the initiative widely within the school community
· Motivate and inspire others as much as possible
· Make sure people know they don’t have to run
· Have coffee afterwards
· Celebrate PBs and milestones
Anne Bridgman and Sharon Scott
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