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The Children’s Institute Health and Fitness Program

June 15, 2009  • 

Building self-esteem and lifelong healthy eating and fitness habits can be challenging for many children, but kids with special needs often face even greater obstacles to achieving these goals. Since 2005, The Children’s Institute (TCI), a private, nonprofit school in Verona, NJ dedicated to educating youngsters with special needs, has sponsored a Health and Fitness Program that is designed to meet the special health needs of its students.

The program was launched to address the growing problem of childhood obesity, a problem that is even more prevalent in the special education/special needs student population. It takes a three-pronged approach for students, staff and parents that focuses on nutrition, fitness and self-esteem.

When it comes to fitness and self-esteem, the program integrates yoga, kick-boxing, hip-hop jam sessions and other “high-interest” physical activities into the curriculum that really get kids excited to move, along with a variety of additional creative programming ideas. To improve nutrition and encourage kids and parents to learn to choose and prepare healthy snacks and meals, TCI offers special nutrition classes that incorporate hands-on, multi-sensory instruction about healthy food selection using cafeteria and cafeteria food choices for lunch and snacks. “Snappy Snackin'” activities in health classes enable youngsters to make their own healthy snacks using provided fruits, veggies and whole grains, while a Recipe Exchange program for parents, staff and students helps the school community share favorite meal ideas. They even plan to put together a TCI cookbook!

Not only does this program serve the special needs population, it also offers smart, creative ideas for mainstream students as well. For more information about TCI’s Health and Fitness Program and how your school can provide provide improved outreach and assistance to its special needs students, visit TCI’s website.