Special Ed Ex­trav­a­ganza.

Serve Daily - - NEWS - By Jan­ice Helmick for Serve Daily

SPAN­ISH FORK — Am­mon Allred, who is con­fined to a wheel­chair, bent over as far as pos­si­ble and rolled the bowl­ing ball into the pins ahead of him. When he re­al­ized he had knocked them down all at once, his face lit up and he ex­pressed his joy with a yell. His coach joined in his hap­pi­ness, high-fiv­ing him and pat­ting him on the back. Am­mon at­tends Payson Ju­nior High, in Payson, Utah.

The Special Ed­u­ca­tion Ex­trav­a­ganza was held Wed­nes­day, Septem­ber 20, at Di­a­mond Fork Ju­nior High in Span­ish Fork, Utah. What be­gan as a dream to have a special needs class par­tic­i­pate in an in­tra­mu­ral pro­gram, the Ex­trav­a­ganza has be­come an anticipated district-wide event that in­volves ev­ery ju­nior high school special needs stu­dent in the Nebo School District.

Each year, for the past 11 years the Ex­trav­a­ganza has be­come more pop­u­lar, larger and has more to of­fer. Even­tu­ally, this pro­gram de­vel­oped into a peer tu­tor con­fer­ence in­volv­ing nu­mer­ous stu­dents from a host school as well as from each ju­nior high in the district. This year’s theme “Be Your Own Hero” was printed on T-shirts given to each stu­dent.

Coach Linda Jones Lewis is one of the founders of the event. She worked as a teacher in the Nebo School District for 40 years. She has been re­tired for five years, but she still or­ga­nizes this event ev­ery year. When we first met her, she was talk­ing to the peer tu­tors from Miss Holly Averett’s first-pe­riod Char­ac­ter Ed­u­ca­tion class. She told the tu­tors “re­mem­ber, this is not about you, it is about them.”

There were 110 peer tu­tors who coached the 102 special needs stu­dents from the seven ju­nior high schools. There were 14 sta­tions set up for the event, four of which were out­side. These four out­side events were the soft­ball throw, 100-me­ter run, run­ning long jump and high jump. Awards for the best achieve­ments in the out­side ac­tiv­i­ties were given at the end of the event. In­side the gym, the special needs stu­dents could have their nails painted, go fish­ing at the fish pond, have their faces painted, go bowl­ing and much more.

I found the special needs stu­dents were friendly and ex­cited about the event. The fish pond was a great place to be sit­ting. Some of these stu­dents did not un­der­stand how to throw the clothes­pin over the drape, and their coaches took time to show them, and help them as nec­es­sary. It was won­der­ful to see the joy when they pulled that fish line back on their side and found a fris­bee or a neck­lace or a ka­zoo at­tached to it. Those ka­zoos were every­one’s fa­vorite. What a joy­ful noise was heard all day.

At 11:30, the stu­dents at Di­a­mond Fork were dis­missed for lunch, and the special needs stu­dents ate the sack lunches they had brought with them. The teach­ers and other adults were treated to a lunch of pizza. One of the young men sit­ting by me asked for help with putting his straw into his drink, and needed help with his potato chip bag. When he took his drink from me, some of the juice spilled onto the bench, and he was so care­ful to take his nap­kin and wipe it up. Then he handed me the used nap­kin to put in the garbage for him. He has been trained well, and his par­ents can be proud of him.

One of the par­tic­i­pants was a dark­skinned stu­dent with braids coiled around her head. Every­one kept re­fer­ring to her as “she.” Fi­nally, she re­minded us that she was not a girl but a boy. How re­fresh­ing to in­ter­act with a youth who is proud of his gen­der, and who he is. He earned a rib­bon, and after re­ceiv­ing it, he folded his arms, bowed his head, and closed his eyes. I sus­pect he was say­ing thanks.

Photo Ed Helmick

Am­mon Allred shows his joy at get­ting a strike while bowl­ing.

Photo: Ed Helmick

Mid­dle school stu­dents pre­pare to help with the Special Ed Ex­trav­a­ganza.

Photo: Ed Helmick

One Special Ed Par­tic­i­pant bows his head in thanks.

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