Wildcats United Kickball
Wayland Union Middle School students with special needs had a chance to participate in an after school sporting event called “Wildcats United Kickball” game. Students of all ability levels will play alongside their peers from the middle school. This is the first time the school has held such an event.
Special Education Teacher, Cassie Peereboom, and School Social Worker, Brett Newman, were approached by Special Olympics Unified Champions in November because of the school’s strong Peer to Peer program. The Allegan County Peer to Peer Coordinator thought WUMS might want to explore other avenues to promote inclusion.
The staff members then met with the representative from Special Olympics Unified Champions to brainstorm on additional ways to include students with special needs. Special Olympics provides an opportunity to connect kids with disabilities and kids without disabilities through sports.
“We created an event where students with disabilities, who might not be able to compete in regular sports, could play in a game with their general education peers,” said Peereboom. “For this first event, we reached out to some of our current Peer Connectors who were already familiar with students with disabilities to sign up to participate.”
The Peer to Peer program began three years ago at the middle school. Students are trained as “Peer Connectors” and learn how to interact with students with disabilities and model appropriate behavior. Peer Connectors model appropriate behavior during recycling and lunch. Students with disabilities learn how to interact in social situations and the Peer Connectors often have a better sense of self-esteem and a more inclusive mindset.