CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Every Thursday at noon, a lively group of fun-loving young adults gets together at Quantum Sports Center in Kanawha City, to play kickball and socialize. Most of the players have intellectual and developmental disabilities, but Christine Dickson, who formed the group, says the focus is on participants' abilities, not their disabilities.
Dickson, a behavior analyst and owner of behavioral health agency Global Access, formed "Kickball for All" in May.
It's her most recent effort to provide her clients with social interaction opportunities, something that is often difficult for her young adult clients with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD).
"Once they leave school, they leave some of the social groups that they had for a long time," Dickson said. She provides therapeutic consulting and behavior support professional services to individuals with IDD.
"We need to be out there in the community like everyone else. Kickball for All is an opportunity for the community to get involved and interact with young people who have limited social interaction opportunities. My 4-year-old loves it. We've had 80-year-olds come to play. We have people in wheelchairs. If you can't run to the bases, someone will push you," Dickson said.
"We have had anywhere from five to 40 people come to Kickball for All. We have had non-IDD people participate. We need more community members in general. It's any age and any ability, and you don't have to know how to play.
"Social outlets meet quality of life indicators for anyone. We know that people, all people, are happier when they have opportunities to socialize with peers and non-peers and, basically, whomever they choose. It would be nice if locally there were several choices each day for folks to be in the community with peers or people they choose," Dickson said.
Dickson says that young people with developmental delays often graduate from high school at age 21, and that over the next few years their social network shrinks, opportunities to make new friends are few and far between, therefore, the young adult years can become an isolating time.
Her goal is to prevent that from happening. "I know that having opportunities with peers and the outside community is very important to my clients," Dickson said.
Dickson's son played soccer with Adam Arthur, the manager of Quantum Sports in Kanawha City. She asked him about having a game.
Arthur, a York, England native, came to the U.S. on a soccer scholarship. He said that he had a lot of experience with young people through his mother who is very active in foster parenting. He has also completed a course on strength training for IDD athletes.
"We came up with the idea of kickball as a way to reach more people because I can't hire all of them. Kickball is on a donation basis -- whatever they can afford -- where we generally rent the facility for $100 per hour. I run the kickball session. We play for about 40 minutes with two teams. We add in some time for them to chat and talk about what they are doing. We just have fun. I wanted to help out and do something good for the community," Arthur said.
Christina Snuffer, a behavior analyst and clinical director of Stevenson, LLC, a licensed behavioral health agency, is coordinating the "Kickball for All" activities.
Snuffer said that in addition to kickball, she teaches an iPhone class on Mondays for her IDD adult clients. "We upload pictures and go over new apps. They can text me pictures of what they want to convey even if they can't type or spell. It helps them communicate and causes behaviors to decrease," Snuffer said.
"On Wednesdays, we go bowling. Whoever wants to show up and bowl at Venture Lanes. We get there between 1:30 and 2 p.m. Thursday is kickball. The guys love it. They look forward to it. It's good exercise for them and a great social thing for them. A lot of people from different agencies get to connect. They get to see their friends and make new social connections. The staff gets really involved. It's a good uplifting thing for everybody," Snuffer said.
"On Fridays we do Rock Lake Community Life Center from 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. In the summer, we plant vegetation and flowers. We play games, have cooking classes, parties, crafts, bingo, movies and popcorn. There's always something going on at Rock Lake. They don't charge us anything. It's open to all the clients and it doesn't matter which agency you are with," Snuffer said.