Getting active with a little help from our friends at St. FX

By GoodLife Kids on 11/04/2016

University program win-win for participants & students

Watching from the behind the glass at the Zamboni gate, Wade Chisholm can’t help but smile as his son shoots the puck across the ice. Six-year-old Cullan is taking part in a sledge hockey session through Motor Activities with X, better known locally as MAX. MAX is a program offered through the Department of Human Kinetics at St. Francis Xavier University in Antigonish, NS. The program’s aim is to provide the opportunity for children with and without all types of disabilities to work alongside university students and be included in a variety of physical activity environments both on campus and in the community.

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The MAX program is a recent recipient of nearly $9,000 in grant funding from GoodLife Kids Foundation that will help to expand the sledge hockey and autism friendly skating programs. “The day we got the new sleds changed everything,” said Chisolm. “It allowed my son to play with his friends like any other hockey program. He wants to be there and is motivated to be with the other kids and do well.”

Dr. Amanda Casey is a professor at St. FX and the MAX program coordinator. “Through MAX we aim to change perceptions of what it means to be active and what can be achieved when children receive the proper support and are pushed to their limits,” she says. “We know that participating in physical activity with peers offers so many physical, social and mental health benefits that extend beyond the activity itself. It is our job to find ways to break down barriers that exist for full participation in physical activity.”

MAX is all about setting participants up for success. The goal is to challenge participants to learn and grow while providing each child with the necessary support to have meaningful physical activity experiences. Advocacy and inclusion are critical components. MAX fosters inclusion with specially trained staff, adapted equipment and accessible social and built environments to allow children with and without disabilities to enjoy activities together.

For Tiffany MacNeil, this means that her children finally have a chance to play hockey together, “My son is now included with his brother... He is challenged to his maximum potential and he is really excited about it!” She exclaims, “For Will, there is a way to play!"

University students in Human Kinetics also gain practical experience as coaches, learning the importance of inclusion, social support and individualized goals and progress. With the additional perspective gained by working with children of all abilities, St. FX students like Zach MacNeil have also become community advocates. “In Antigonish, MAX is helping to building long-term sustainable sport participation for children with disabilities,” he explains. “While participants gain the necessary skills to participate, MAX has also lead to increased awareness that the social and physical benefits of sport are important to the development of all children.”

As the buzzer sounds to announce the end of the session, the hall to the dressing room rings with the sounds of happy children. “That was fun! Can we do it again next week?”

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 To learn more about the program, please contact max@stfx.ca.

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GoodLife Kids
GoodLife Kids Foundation shares resources and links to help you provide a healthier and more physically active lifestyle for the children in your life.

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The Confidence to Try #FEELGOODFRIDAY Lukas is a 10-year-old Raptors fan who plays basketball with his local chapter of Special Olympics, but it wasn’t that long ago that he was afraid to join a team. Lukas is an outgoing kid who likes to make friends and has always been very active. But his early experiences in organized physical activity were not positive. One of his biggest challenges with autism is struggling to follow directions in large groups. He was often told he was doing things wrong and even that he would embarrass the team. “These negative comments deflated his confidence, and he became afraid to try new things,” explained his mom Lisa. When he was eight, Lukas took part in the Sports of All Sorts program at the Geneva Centre for Autism. The supportive environment in the Sports of All Sorts program, funded by a GoodLife Kids grant, was a real game-changer for him. Constant encouragement and positive reinforcement gave Lukas a safe space to explore new activities without a fear of being judged. With one-on-one support he played basketball, baseball, tennis, and golf. “We’re so glad to make physical activity a regular part of Lukas’ life and we’ve found ways for him to continue practicing at home,” said Lisa. “We bought a tennis net for the backyard, and now that he’s not afraid, he loves to go to glow-in-the-dark mini-putt with his dad!” As Lukas turned around on the basketball court to wave to his mom, he gave her two big thumbs up and her eyes welled up with tears of joy. “Watching him enjoy himself, I’m overwhelmed with happiness and pride,” she shared. “He has talents! But most of all, he has regained a belief in himself – that he CAN do it – and that is so powerful.”

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