The Student News Site of Utica University

The Tangerine

The Student News Site of Utica University

The Tangerine

The Student News Site of Utica University

The Tangerine

Students help children with developmental disabilities

By Grace Barattini, Assistant Features Editor

Utica College has renewed its partnership with Upstate Cerebral Palsy (UCP) and the Kelberman Center to bring Pool Pals and Aqua Buddies back to campus. 

 The Upstate Cerebral Palsy center provides programs, services and support for those with differing abilities and individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder.           

Because of UCP and the Kelberman Center, UC has been a continuous supporter of this program. This 8-week aquatic program combines pool exercises, social interaction and recreational activities for children with developmental disabilities, helping create an experience of a lifetime. 

  In order for the program to run they must have student volunteers, freshman Olivia LaBelle said. 

  “The student volunteers assist the children in the pool and provide individual support for them with the supervision and direction of physical therapists,” LaBelle said.  

  Freshman Isabelle LaBelle  encourages volunteers to participate if they love working with children, have an open mind and are dedicated to showing up for each session. 

  “We have 21 volunteers this semester signed up to help, we are not in need of anymore, but if people are interested, we will need volunteers in the fall semester as well,” Isabella LaBelle said. 

  Students will gain hands-on experience and interaction with the participating children, autism training from the Kelberman Center and the opportunity to implement the programming facilitated by a therapist and certified water safety instructor. 

  Senior Devon Burri said she noticed the numerous benefits students can get from volunteering for this program. 

  “This is an awesome experience with learning how to interact with children that have developmental disabilities,” Burri said. “It is also rewarding in the sense that you get to put a smile on the children’s faces.” 

  During this program children participate in activities and games within the pool; however, they are not learning to swim. Instead, the children are enhancing their muscle strength, cognitive processing and their water safety and physical activity skills. 

  “The children learn skills that will help them in many aspects of their life. The children better their social skills by interacting and working with the volunteers along with the other children. They also work on their fine motor skills by playing games in the pool,” LaBelle said. 

  Our fine motor skills are used when we make small movements. Developing and working on them can help these children with future tasks like holding a crayon and drawing or using scissors and other tools. 

Aside from assisting these children with working on their fine motor skills, social skills and having fun, this program is just as rewarding for the volunteers, according to these UC students. 

“You work with the same child for eight weeks and it is rewarding to see how much your child has grown by the end of the program,” LaBelle said. 

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