The ripples created by one vision, one program to offer physical learning opportunities for our community’s most vulnerable, extend far beyond a single child or game of ball. Families, caregivers, teachers and student volunteers see and feel its life-changing effects every day. And it all begins on a Friday night, as it has for the past 30 years, when young people with special needs participate in IMPACT, Individualized Movement and Physical Activity for Children Today. Age 12 months to 21 years, they swim, play games, dance, test their skills on a climbing wall and play ball sports while getting individualized attention from a trained undergraduate volunteer or graduate student. Established in 1982, IMPAC T is internationally recognized, but it’s the kids and parents themselves who know it for what it truly is – a transformational program with far-reaching implications for individuals, families, communities and our world.
Parent | Kelli Steele
“IMPACT has changed our lives,” says Kelli, whose son, Brian, has Asperger’s syndrome. Gifted in math and with a photographic memory, he experiences challenges with socialization and motor coordination, which makes it difficult to play on sports teams and succeed in physical education.
Kelli says, “The opportunity to watch Brian at IMPACT, see him grow as a person, grow in strength, friendships, acceptance, care and love of himself, these are successes and strengths to that program that are priceless and so greatly heartfelt to a parent. What more do we want than for our own children to love themselves? This positive environment and personal growth we have seen in Brian has helped him make friends at school and improve his cognitive and physical abilities … he now believes in himself, his accomplishments, his own personal growth.
“Throwing, catching or bouncing a ball is natural for most children. As is skipping rope, swimming and group games. These were all challenges in Brian’s life, but with the personal commitment and guidance he receives through IMPACT he is mastering these skills and is able to play with peers at recess. These are huge steps of achievement and happiness for our son. The IMPACT program is a gift in our lives. I have the ability to meet other parents, share our hearts, share our love for our children and connect with other parents who understand our joy when our children make the slightest improvement.
“IMPACT is life-changing – for everyone. Sometimes I don’t know who I enjoy watching more – the parents beaming as they watch their children, the children beaming with smiles or the IMPACT student staff.”
Student volunteer | Jared Hultquist
Jared, a sophomore in Exercise and Sport Science, has volunteered four terms. He says, “I enjoy seeing the kids at IMPACT having so much fun and learning activities that they can use for the rest of their lives. This will be my second term working with Austin, and he has become a great friend of mine and is like a little brother to me. Seeing him improve skills not only from week to week but especially after months of hard work is so gratifying.”
Participant | Austin
“My favorite sports to play at IMPACT are baseball, swimming and dunking basketballs. I really love to be active and physical.
New Faculty | Megan MacDonald
Megan MacDonald is assistant professor of Movement Studies in Disability. She received a PhD in Kinesiology from the University of Michigan in 2011. Megan believes that movement and physical activity are essential components in a healthy lifestyle for individuals at any age and ability. Her research interests are related to how motor skills and physically active lifestyles improve the lives of children and youth with and without disabilities. She also has a specific research interest in the movement skills of children with autism spectrum disorder, including how to improve motor skills for children with autism and how motor skills interact with social communication skills.