PTs Take Active Role in Special Olympics

APTA members adding ‘healthy athletes’ component to program

As the Special Olympics programs celebrates its 50th year in 2018, a couple of physical therapists are continuing their own long-standing affiliations with the program.

Vicki Tilley, PT, and Donna Bainbridge, PT, ATC, EdD, are making a difference by lending their own skills to Special Olympics.

Tilley and Bainbridge are marking their 19th year with the program, and their 18th with “Healthy Athletes,” a program utilizing health professionals and students from multiple disciplines to provide education, screenings, and other services to athletes. Tilley and Bainbridge took the lead in FUNfitness, the branch of Healthy Athletes responsible for screenings and education around balance, strength, flexibility, and aerobics fitness.

FUNfitness is primarily performed by physical therapists (PTs), physical therapist assistants (PTAs), and students.

“I have a different lens now,” Tilley said. “Being able to engage, explore, and interact with the ID [intellectual disabilities] population in a way that’s positive has changed the way I think about people in general, and about inclusion and access.”

“My experiences with Special Olympics have shaped my entire career path in practice, research, and programming,” Bainbridge added. “I have a better understanding of the health needs of individuals with ID, and what we as physical therapists can do to improve the lives and function of people with ID at all ages.”

SOURCE: PT in Motion

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