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NCHPAD - Building Healthy Inclusive Communities

F.I.T.T. Column - 2009 Sports Day at Solomon School


Guest columnist for this month's F.I.T.T. Column is Sheila Swann-Guerrero, Information Specialist at NCPAD

Safe Routes to School (SRTS) is a program of the U.S. Department of Transportation's Federal Highway Administration. SRTS is designed to help communities develop and implement projects and programs that encourage active transportation to and from school. The Illinois Department of Transportation Safe Routes to School has awarded a grant to the National Center on Health, Physical Activity, and Disability (NCHPAD) to implement a SRTS program that will include children of all abilities. NCHPAD has partnered with Solomon Elementary School, a Chicago Public School, to pilot an inclusive SRTS program in Illinois.

Concerns exist for the well being of children. Children today are walking and biking to school less than in past generations. The consequence has been a decrease in activity for youth, an increase in childhood obesity, an increase in automobile use, and an increase in pollution from automobiles. SRTS has developed a national strategy to increase safety and physical activity among youth to address these concerns and to promote a healthier, more active lifestyle for elementary school-age children that will stay with them throughout their entire lives. It is essential that this strategy include children with disabilities because they are at a greater risk for inactivity than children without disabilities.

Solomon Elementary School is taking a proactive approach to wellness that includes all students. Solomon participated in the International Walk & Wheel to School Day in October 2008 (http://www.ncpad.org/596/2543/2008~International~Walk~to~School~Day~-~Solomon~
Elementary~School~~Chicago~~Illinois
). The school has continued to keep children active with Walking and Wheeling Wednesdays, a program in which students travel around the school at the beginning of the school day. The Chicago winter and city-wide test preparations presented challenges for the students to continue participating in the program. To meet these challenges, students participated in brief physical activity breaks at their desks instead of walking or wheeling outside.

To shake off the winter blues and get the school back in action, Solomon School and NCHPAD developed a Sports Day. The goal of Sports Day was to provide an inclusive event for all students to be more physically active and learn about safe pedestrian travel.

Solomon School SRTS Sports Day involved 390 students of all abilities rotating through activity stations which included adaptive cycling, wheelchair sports, parachute games, nature activities, pedometer tracking instruction, and pedestrian safety. Sports Day was a collaboration of Solomon School, NCPAD, Project Mobility, Chicago Park District, Active Transportation Alliance, and Safe Routes Ambassadors. These organizations came together to teach educate, enable, and encourage students, parents, and school staff on the inclusion of students with disabilities in a Safe Routes to School Walk and Wheel Program in order to foster a healthy lifestyle for all children



The success of the event was demonstrated in the remarks from students commenting on how they wanted to use the adaptive cycles in the grand finale parade and how much fun it was to spin in the racing wheelchair. The ultimate goal of this program is to develop a guide to help students, school staff, and parents with the inclusion of children of all abilities in the SRTS program. Inclusion is not something that can be forced; true inclusion is a value that is shared by everyone. Sports Day was one small step towards a school and a community that embraces the importance of all children and their need to lead active lifestyles traveling to and from school as well as to promote positive interactions between students of all abilities to develop friendships for social inclusion.


Please send any questions or comments to Sheila Swann-Guerrero, Information Specialist, at swanngue@uic.edu.


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