Organization of an Adapted Triathlon As a Service Activity in a Dpt Program
Background and Purpose: Student volunteers for adapted sports have a positive impact on the community, increased confidence working with children with disabilities, improved problem-solving skills and social competence, and enhanced value for their work.1-2,5 Children with disabilities get equal opportunity for physical and sports activity which improves self-confidence, socialization, community participation, and self-perceived quality of life.3-4 Case Description: CoMo Adapted Triathlon (COMAT) engaged children ages 5-18 with physical, cognitive, and/or behavioral impairments. Three University of Missouri (MU) DPT students organized this event that was accessible to all disability levels and encouraged physical wellness in a fun manner. They were assisted as needed by 1 MU DPT faculty and staff member. This involved acquiring sponsors and equipment/facilities as well as recruitment. Coordinators secured use of the MU Recreation facilities including the track and pool with flotation devices. They acquired adapted bicycles from vendors. Sponsors consisted of local businesses approached for donations. Recruitment of volunteers and athletes included presentations to MU DPT students and emails to Missouri DPT and PTA programs and state PTs and PTAs. Volunteer applications were posted on COMAT and MU DPT Facebook. Volunteer were mainly DPT students who assisted children with modified biking, swimming, and running. Participants were recruited through local pediatricians and children’s adapted sports programs, PT clinics, community organizations. Emails with flyers were sent statewide to clinicians and adapted sports programs. Outcomes: Number of athletes: 2017: 30, 2018: 46. 2019: 41. Athlete demographics: average age: 9.61, 9.93 yrs. Diagnoses over 3 years: Down Syndrome (DS): 13%, Cerebral Palsy (CP): 29%, Autism Spectrum/ADHD: 26%, Amputee: 3%, Micro or Hydrocephaly: 10%, Motor Delay: 15%, Other: 4%. Furthest traveled: 2017 = 256 miles, 2018 = 150 miles. Distance traveled: 2017 = 16 from Columbia, 15 average of 127 miles; 2018: 33 in Columbia, 13 average of 66 miles. Volunteers: 2017: 112, 2018: 108. Volunteer demographics: college students: 2017 = 79%, 2018 = 86%, 2019 = 100%. Health Professionals: 2017 = 6%, 2018 = 8%. Other: 2017 = 15%, 2018 = 6%. # of PT schools involved: 2017 = 5, 2018 = 3, 2019 = 1. # PTA schools involved: 2017 = 1, 2018 = 2, 2019 = 1. Parent comments expressed appreciation for an activity where their child was successful and could socialize. Volunteer comments included increased confidence in skills working with children with disabilities and appreciation for participating in community service including a desire to do so in the future. Discussion: COMAT is a successful adapted sports event benefitting participants and volunteers. Children with impairments were able to participate in physical activity with assistance as needed. Volunteer DPT students participated in a service opportunity where they applied classroom knowledge. They had direct interaction with children with varying functional abilities requiring creative problem-solving for successful participation. This improved confidence working with children with disabilities. Volunteers also felt they helped children be successful. This program is a model for adapted sport events as service within a PT program.