Building Skills and Confidence Through Adapted Sports

December 6, 2019

The Recreation Program at Kayla’s Children Centre (KCC) combines fun with a focus on self-regulation, therapeutic play and building confidence and social skills through activities, music therapy, our sensory gym and Snoezelen room.

The program serves children with diverse needs and abilities, many of whom have typical siblings who enjoy activities like hockey, martial arts and skating.

Concerned that their children with special needs be given equal opportunity to participate in the same types of activities as their siblings – in a supportive setting conducive to their needs – many parents approached KCC recreation program coordinator, Sarg Lamberger, about the possibility of implementing adapted sports in addition to the soccer and basketball programs we already run.

Sarg took up the challenge and began researching the possibilities. Thrilled to discover an adapted Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) program provided by another organization, Sarg immediately reached out to martial arts instructor, Daniel Dees, and invited him for a trial during Camp 18’s summer session in July 2018.

Daniel, who has studied the international warrior arts for over 30 years and has been teaching kids with special needs for over 20 years, held three group classes for difference groups of campers. It was a huge hit with the kids! Sarg was blown away that every child actively participated in drills and achieved their own levels of mastery and calm.

When asked what has surprised him most since the program began, Daniel says, “I have always felt [children with special needs] beg for challenges but often there is a failure to provide due to assumptions that are made. KCC throws assumptions out the window and allows each child to work with me to accomplish what needs to be done.” He adds, “In my class, the expectations are the same for every student. We recognize that [each one] needs different ways to accomplish the same goals.”
As fate would have it, while Sarg was looking into martial arts, she was contacted by Kyle Brownell, an executive member of the Thornhill Rebels Community Hockey League, who was interested in starting a hockey league for children with special needs and was referred to her by a mutual contact.

“My initial reaction was ‘sure great, but our kids can’t skate’,” says Sarg, and to her surprise, his immediate response was, “That’s okay, I’ll teach them.”

Daniel, who has studied the international warrior arts for over 30 years and has been teaching kids with special needs for over 20 years, held three group classes for difference groups of campers. It was a huge hit with the kids! Sarg was blown away that every child actively participated in drills and achieved their own levels of mastery and calm.

When asked what has surprised him most since the program began, Daniel says, “I have always felt [children with special needs] beg for challenges but often there is a failure to provide due to assumptions that are made. KCC throws assumptions out the window and allows each child to work with me to accomplish what needs to be done.” He adds, “In my class, the expectations are the same for every student. We recognize that [each one] needs different ways to accomplish the same goals.”
As fate would have it, while Sarg was looking into martial arts, she was contacted by Kyle Brownell, an executive member of the Thornhill Rebels Community Hockey League, who was interested in starting a hockey league for children with special needs and was referred to her by a mutual contact.

“My initial reaction was ‘sure great, but our kids can’t skate’,” says Sarg, and to her surprise, his immediate response was, “That’s okay, I’ll teach them.”

The program started in September 2018 with six kids and has more than doubled to 15 today – just enough to start a league and make Coach Kyle’s wish come true!

KCC’s MMA program runs Thursdays from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. from September to June.

KCC’s skating / hockey program runs Wednesdays from 4 p.m. to 5 p.m. from September to April.

For more information about KCC’s adapted sports/recreation programs or to register, emailsarg@kaylaschildrencentre.org or call 905-738-5542.