‘Teaches strength, friendship’ Exercise class caters to kids with disabilities

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WASHINGTON, Ill. — It’s an exercise class with a twist.

OSF Children’s Hospital of Illinois partners with Five Points in Washington to help kids with disabilities increase their strength.

It also provides a great deal of positivity for the mentors and physical therapists. Whether it’s darting across the floor on a bright colored scooter, or using step training stairs to work on leg strength, 7-year-old Brantley Williams keeps his mentors on their toes. 

“I just like it because then I feel like I’m part of the class and with them around I can do a lot more things with them,” said Brantley Williams. “Usually I have one of the girls sit on the scooter then they hold onto my legs and then I pull them.”

Ryann Pugh is a senior at Washington High School. She works with numerous kids in the class but says Brantley’s strength is something she’s proud to see improve. 

“It’s just so fun to see how they grow and develop over the time you’re working with them,” said Ryann Pugh.

They say exercise is a key component to living a healthy lifestyle and for kids with disabilities, this class helps them physically and it also brings them friendship.

“We do stretching,” said Saundi Pugh, Pediatric Physical Therapist for OSF Children’s Hospital of Illinois. “We do warm up. We do like cardiovascular core stuff, strengthening. We incorporate where they have to introduce their person or have to say something that’s their favorite thing, so we interact that way also.

The room can be pretty crazy filled with nine kids, nine mentors and two physical therapists. The exercise class is aimed at helping this kids with various disabilities, but the mentors get a lot of out it too. 

“They teach me that everybody has different abilities and everybody has different things that they’re good at,” said Ryann Pugh. “I just think that it’s so cool to see that.”

For most classes they work up a sweat, but these kids also gain confidence, friendship and socialization skills. 

“I’ve found the more your high your expectations are when you give them the support, they can actually exceed those expectations,” said Saundi Pugh. “It’s really cool to challenge them and push them a little bit harder so they feel like they’re accomplishing things and growing too.”

The six week class ended Wednesday. For the last class, the kids were able to choose their favorite exercise and were able to do it one last time. 

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