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800 of UISD's Youngest Athletes Play in YAPS Special Olympic Games

Posted Date: 03/27/2024

800 of UISD's Youngest Athletes Play in YAPS Special Olympic Games

The field at the Bill Johnson Student Activity Complex was bustling with 800 UISD students participating in the Spring YAPS Special Olympics.  The Young Athletes Program features kids Pre-k to 2nd grade playing a variety of sporting events from throwing balls and plastic animals to running under colorful tents or through obstacle courses.  This year, a special sensory area was set up in the middle of the field.  The event, organized by the Special Education Department, took place the morning of March 27.

The Games always start with a parade of schools and athletes, where each team is introduced to cheers from the parents and UISD staff. The Young Athletes Program, or YAPS, is an inclusive and welcoming sports play program for children with and without intellectual disabilities from 2 to 7 years of age. The program provides a focus on teamwork, while also teaching children basic sports skills such as running, kicking and throwing, according to the Special Olympics Organization. 

Several hundred people participate in the big yearly event including teachers, aides, parents and volunteers.  The mini athletes move from event to event testing their skills and generally having a great time outside of the classroom with their teachers and classmates. Several UISD schools provided volunteer students to help out with the event.  

Miguel Chavez, Special Education Instructional Coordinator, says this is the 3rd of four Special Olympic events held throughout the year. The first is a Fall Bowling Tournament; the Spring Special Olympics track and field event is for older children, and there is a last bonus community event called the Fishing Derby to be held later in the school year.  All the events give the students an opportunity to focus on their athletic abilities in a safe environment.  

“Everyone looks forward to these events because they offer a wonderful active and playful experience,” said Chavez.  “It’s extremely important for them to exercise and participate in sports.  They use a lot of technology in school and at home, which is ok, but this is a special time for them to be exposed to different sports such as volleyball, tennis, and soccer.  You name it, we have it here on the field, and it's all for our students.”







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