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Apr 29

‘A great environment for them’: How a Raynham gym caters to young adults with disabilities – Taunton Daily Gazette

RAYNHAM The Raynham Athletic Clubis offering a new training and fitness program for developmentally disabled young adults, and for some, the program arrived just in the nick of time.

Amy Harrington, of Bridgewater, says her 29-year-old son Adam, who has Down syndrome, struggled during the COVID-19 shutdown when his regular routine of activities was canceled across the board, and while the world around him began to get back to its regular routine, Adams favorite programs, like Special Olympics, have only recently restarted.

The effort to rebuild his routine took a big step forward when Amy heard about the new program at the RAC, and now, every Wednesday, Adam can be found in the pool with Raynham Athletic Club General Manager and Group Ex instructor Kate Dyer.

During COVID, everything closed down and there was nothing for him to do. And without his regular routine and not having a lot to do, we saw pretty significant changes in his personality, Harrington said.

Hes a man of routine and when his routine fell apart he just didnt have much to do. It was tough.

The new program offers circuit training in the gym on Monday and aqua aerobics in the pool on Wednesday.

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Adam participates in the aqua aerobics session on Wednesdays, and Amy says it is now one of his favorite activities. With Special Olympics, Adam plays football and basketball, but he loves the water, and is also member of a Special Olympics swim team that has yet to restart.

Adam could swim before he could walk, Harrington said. He loves it, he really looks forward to it every week. He knows when Wednesday is. He says swim, swim. And he really likes being with other people. Its in a fun environment.

As a parent, you need to keep them active and get them in some physical activities, because we know people like Adam, people with Down syndrome, can struggle with their weight. But he gets a great workout in that pool.

And Kate Dyer, she is just wonderful, Harrington added. She can handle anything, any situation. And with this population, with this group, you do have to be ready for anything. But she knows how to get them working and having fun, and since the first class he wants to go back every week.

A certified Group Ex instructor and a Special Olympics coach for 25 years, Dyer is up to the task, and says the idea is to offer engaging, inclusive fitness classes centered around exercise, social interactions and movement.

I wanted to provide an opportunity for young adults with disabilities to develop their health and wellness in an engaging and fun atmosphere, she said. Class allows them to improve skills, learn about different types of exercise, train and develop their communication skills.

Dyer began volunteering with Special Olympics as a college student and has been involved with the group ever since. Her 19-year-old son Jordan, who's competed in a variety of Special Olympics programs including flag football, basketball and volleyball, helps out with the class.

The circuit training session, on Mondays, aims to target different muscle groups with minimal rest in between. She describes the aqua aerobics session as a high-energy, low-impact class that gives a total body workout using water as resistance.

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While a bit of exercise and physical activity is the point, learning, and summoning the nerveto go underwater for the first time has been the big takeaway for 21-year-old Caroline Hayes, of Bridgewater.

According to Dyer, at the end of a recent class, unknown to the instructor or her parents, Caroline, who is autistic, had decided it was time.

I was throwing diving sticks out for them to find. Caroline was on the edge of the pool with her hands on her face, looking anxious. I asked her if she was OK and she said yes, Dyer recalled, setting the scene.

Her dad also approached her and asked her. A few minutes later, she ducked herself completely under water and came up with the most amazing smile and joyful facial expression. When I looked at the deck her parents looked very surprised. For the remainder of the class after I threw the diving sticks for the participants, I asked her to duck under the water with me, a total of five times.

At the conclusion of class, Carolines parents explained that it was Carolines first time taking a proper dunk.

It turns out Carolines dunk was far from a one-time dunk, and now she looks forward to going under water at each class session.

Each week she has continued to go under water successfully, Dyer said.

It was great to see her do it, said Denise Hayes, Carolines mom. She had a huge smile on her face when she came back up. For her, it was a big accomplishment. She was very proud of herself.

And it was funny to watch her getting ready to do it again, like getting psyched up to do it again. She wanted to do it, but was still a little nervous. And then she just did it.

Hayes says the new activity came along just at the right time and she is hopeful the RAC will continue and expand the program. She also hopes other gyms and training facilities see the need and catch on with a new trend catering to people with disabilities.

Were just thrilled. Hopefully she continues to enjoy it. It gives the kids a safe environment, its quiet and theres no crowd. Some kids dont tolerate noise or crowded places. And this is just a great environment for them.

She gets her bathing suit on hours before its time to go, which just shows us how excited she is to go. The other day, class was at 4:30 and she was ready to go at noon. It just makes us happy to see her happy.

She says while Caroline is always anxious and excited to get in the pool, she leaves worn out and in a great mood.

She really works them. Caroline is exhausted when we get home. Its great physically, not just mentally. We look for any physical activities we can find, but this is at the top of the list. She loves the swimming.

It really is hard for these kids, and I know its hard for all kids. But any physical activity and socialization is so important, just like any other kids.

To learn more, contact Raynham Athletic Club General Manager Kate Dyer at or call 508-823-5440.

Taunton Daily Gazette staff writer Jon Haglof can be reached at Support local journalism by purchasing a digital or print subscription to The Taunton Daily Gazette today.

Originally posted here:
'A great environment for them': How a Raynham gym caters to young adults with disabilities - Taunton Daily Gazette

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