SOAZ Unified Program Chosen as an Innovative Practice in Education
Special Olympics Arizona (SOAZ) was honored to learn, on December 4th, that the Unified Program had been chosen as an Innovative Practice in Education and would be included in the 2016 Zero Project Report and would be presented at the 2016 Zero Project Conference in Vienna, Austria.
SOAZ staff, Isaac Sanft and Laura Duncan, will present the Unified Program at the Conference. This is an amazing opportunity for SOAZ to highlight the success of the program and promote inclusion internationally.
SOAZ launches the Unified Program by empowering youth leaders with and without intellectual disabilities (ID) to form Unified Clubs on their campus. SOAZ equips the Unified Club with training and resources. Unified Club-led activities include disability awareness campaigns, education and advocacy for respect such as person-first language, a pledge drive to eliminate “retarded” as a slur, a play put on by students called It’s Our School Too, pep rallies for the Unified Sports team, inclusion of Special Education student representatives in Student Government and inclusive social activities outside of school. Each of these initiatives increases the visibility of students with disabilities on campuses and impacts the behaviors and attitudes of students without disabilities toward their peers with ID. The passion of the students to be a part of and drive the Unified Program has been a powerful force in breaking down historical stereotypes and social stigma for youth with disabilities.
Unified Sports is the core of the Unified Program. Unified Sports provides students with and without ID the opportunity to play on the same sports team, creating a space for friendships, physical activity, skill development and fun. Twenty two sport choices include options for as few as two players or large groups. Sport choices and competition divisions allow for participation at any skill level. Schools implement Unified Sports as an after-school club or a Unified Sports Physical Education class and high schools may also choose to do Arizona Interscholastic Association (AIA) Unified Sports, thereby adding a Unified division to their Freshmen, Junior Varsity and Varsity divisions. In developmental Preschool classes, Young Athletes offers an age-appropriate equivalent to Unified Sports.
During practices for Unified Sports, the team also completes the Healthy Lifestyle Education And Practice program, or Healthy LEAP. Healthy LEAP consists of eight health lessons: Food Groups, Healthy Weight and Obesity, Behavior and Stress Management, Bone Health, Sports Nutrition and Hydration, Exercise and Injury Prevention, Sun Safety, Dental Hygiene and Personal Hygiene. The curicula is available in three levels: Preschool, Elementary/Middle and High School. The high school version also includes Prevention of Tobacco and Alcohol Use.