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'Kickball for All' provides social opportunities for developmentally disabled young adults to be socially active

By Judy Hamilton

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.

Dickson has worked as a behavior analyst for 22 years and is always looking for new ways to keep her clients socially active.

"Kickball for All is about social interactions and learning sportsmanship, making friends and having an awesome indoor place to get exercise. It's a ton of fun and a lot of laughs. We also have a cheer section and a hang out section. If people want to just come and hang out and meet some people, we have tables and chairs, places to eat if you bring something or there is a small snack bar for drinks, candy and chips, manned by an individual with IDD part-time.

"I am motivated to work on opportunities for my clients by seeing how happy it makes them and the staff. It's a much more fun day when you throw a game of kickball in there or some other fun activity. I have been in this field for 22 years. There has always been a need. I just decided, I'll just start asking people if we can come and put out the info to try to get attendance," Dickson said.

If you need additional information, you may reach Dickson at globalaccessllc@gmail.com.

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  • Community recreational opportunities for individuals with IDD include:

    Bowling at Venture Lanes: 2 to 3 p.m. Wednesdays, 6300 MacCorkle Ave. S.E., St. Albans.  For information, contact Christina Snuffer at 304-807-8928 or csnuffer@stevensonwv.com.

    Fun with Music: Fridays in January and February, time and place to be determined. The group listens to an hour of oldies, interactive dance, and party favorite music. The cost is $40 for eight weeks. For information, call Sue Ellen Evans at 304-205-4888 or email aqmrp2@aol.com.

    Kickball for All: Noon to 1 p.m., donation admission, Quantum Sports, 419 58th St. S.E., Charleston. Contact Christina Snuffer at 304-553-0222 or csnuffer@stevensonwv.com.

    Michael's Game Day: Noon to 2 p.m. every other Friday, 700 Sixth Ave., St. Albans. The group plays a different board game or card game each meeting. It is open to everyone. For information, call Behavioral Health Solutions at 304-727-9768.

    Mud Buddies Foundation: A West Virginia-based nonprofit organization that provides free, guided all-terrain vehicle off-road adventures for IDD adults. Each ride is tailored to the interests, likes and limits of each client.  They have tours on different trails and outdoor activities throughout the state. For information, visit www.mudbuddiesfoundation.com.

    Rock Lake Community Center and Community Garden: 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., Fridays, 905 Village Drive, South Charleston, sponsored by Stevenson LLC and funded by WVU Extension and Rock Lake Presbyterian Church. In the fall and winter, the group does crafts and other activities; in the spring and summer, they do gardening and other activities. For information, contact Christina Snuffer at 304-807-8928 or csnuffer@stevensonwv.com.

    Sensory Sensitive Movies: 9:30 a.m., "Free Birds" on Nov. 9, and "Frozen" on Dec. 7.  Arc of the Three Rivers partners with Park Place Cinemas, 600 Washington St. E., Charleston, to show current release movies in a sensory-sensitive setting. The lights are turned up, the sound levels are lowered and patrons can talk, sing or move around during the movie. Admission is $6 with garage parking available for 75 cents. Concessions will be available for purchase; outside snacks are permitted for those with special diets. For information, call 304-344-3403, ext. 137.

    For information about employment opportunities, contact Stephanie Decker, Employer Services Program Supervisor, 107 Capitol St., 304-356-2366 or 1-800-642-8207. 

    Parent Support Group: 12:15 to 1:15 p.m., first Tuesday of each month at Children's Therapy Clinic, 113 Lakeview Drive, Cross Lanes. Join for support, exchange of ideas, and conversation. Childcare is available, but call 304-342-9515in advance to make reservations at. For information, email valicia@childrenstherapyclinic.com . All parents are welcome.Reach Judy E. Hamilton at judy.hamilton@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1230.


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