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Kids with Developmental Disabilities to Have Field Day All Their Own

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By Mark Schleub

Playing is a big part of being a kid. But for children with autism, cerebral palsy, Down syndrome and other physical and developmental disabilities, it can be tough to find activities that are both fun and physical.

On Saturday, the University of Central Florida will host a free outdoor event on UCF's Memory Mall to encourage physical activity in children with developmental disabilities. Physical Therapy Field Day promises to be fun for kids - and families will come away with strategies to tailor physical activities to the particular needs of their children.

"When you reach a certain age, there are very few opportunities for children with developmental disabilities to be engaged in activities that they might like," said Jennifer Tucker, a member of the physical therapy faculty and board-certified pediatric clinical specialist. "This event really exposes the children to activities designed just for them."

It's the second year for the event, which was created and organized by doctoral students in UCF's Physical Therapy program. Under the theme "Let's Ignite! Building Better Bodies," children ages 5 to 18 will have the chance to warm up with UCF mascot Knightro, play games and have fun.

There will be activity stations for soccer, throwing, basketball, an obstacle course, and other fun stuff, including face-painting, sidewalk chalk and a parachute canopy.

Each child will be paired with a buddy - a physical therapy doctoral student - who will tailor games and activities based on the child's abilities. A wheelchair-bound child, for instance, can play soccer with a bigger ball.

Parents and siblings can see how they, too, can modify playtime activities to improve fitness.

The day ends with a ceremony in which all the children who participate are presented with medals.

About 40 children attended last year's event, and organizers hope for more this year. Also signed up are more than 70 physical therapy doctoral students, who gain valuable experience working with kids of varying abilities.

"The students are driven to the profession at a fundamental level by a desire to help and connect with others," Tucker said.

The event on Memory Mall in front of the CFE Arena runs from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday, March 28. Children must be accompanied by a parent or guardian. If you plan to attend please fill out a registration form by the day of the event and email it to Free parking is available in Lot D1 (see map).

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