Special Needs Cheer Team - Spartan Sparkles

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The Problem

Young people with special needs are often looked at differently. Too often, people see what they cannot do. As a result, they are offered few opportunities to play in sports or participate in social activities with normally developing peers. Cheerleading is very popular among children and teens in the Quad Cities; however, as recently as last summer, our community offered no opportunities for children with disabilities to participate in cheerleading. This past July, the Pleasant Valley Cheerleaders created and developed their own Special Needs Cheerleading Squad, the Spartan Sparkles. The squad currently consists of eight girls, ages eight to fourteen, with disabilities ranging from Down Syndrome to Autism. Cheerleading is wonderful exercise: it requires aerobic stamina, strength, balance, rhythm, and flexibility. The Special Olympics organization said it best: Children with disabilities who participate in cheerleading as a Special Olympics sport develop improved physical fitness and motor skills, greater self confidence and a more positive self image. They grow mentally and socially through their activities, exhibit boundless courage and enthusiasm, enjoy the rewards of friendship, and ultimately discover not only new abilities and talents, but “their voice” as well.

Plan of Action

Since August, the Pleasant Valley Cheerleaders have practiced twice per week with the Sparkles, on Monday and Wednesday evenings from 5:45 until 6:30. These practices will continue throughout the rest of the school year. The Sparkles have already cheered at three home football games . They will cheer at several home basketball games this winter and will compete in the Mid-Winter Special Olympics at the University of Iowa March 13 and 14, 2009.

Project Updates

Our integrated shout cheer team "the PV Sparkles" competed in the Mid Winter Special Olympics in Iowa City on March 14th. We had a blast and brought home the gold.
Check out our new website and non profit cooperation! www.TheSparkleEffect.org
We are hoping to spread the sparkle across the states!
Watch our videos here:
http://www.thesparkleeffect.org/video.html

Our program is a huge sucess! We have added more girls and have had many people inquire about our team! No one has been turned away! We realize we can only handle a certain number to keep the quality of interaction up. Our plan now is to help other school start their own teams. We're making a film about our "road to Special Olympics". With that and other documents, we feel we can hand out "kits" to jump start this idea across the nation! While all star teams have special need cheer teams, they are adult led. They focus on competition. Our teams are student led, and focus on participation within the school and community. Including the Sparkles into PVHS has open the minds and hearts of our whole student body! This about spreading this to all 50 states! We feel like this idea can change the world! Keep your eyes on us! We'll take this to the next level!

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