Students with special needs gain gym skills

SVEN HERSELMAN
Last updated 07:11 05/12/2012

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For the past 2 years some remarkable stories have been unfolding at the Blenheim Gymnastics Club in Opawa St where children and adults with special needs are greatly improving their physical abilities and self-confidence.

Set up by special needs teacher and grade one gymnastics instructor Gisela Schulze three years ago, the weekly classes see around 12 gymnastics students with mental and physical disabilities take to the mats, bars and balance beams.

"It is really good for their development of balance, co-ordination and strength, and also boosts their confidence, all of which are things they take with them into the outside world," Gisela said.

On Tuesday, November 26, the gym held its annual prizegiving where the students were recognised for their hard work and progress over the past 12 months.

This was the second prizegiving they have held since the gym opened. It's success is evident in the fact that the majority of the students have been taking classes for a year or more.

"I have seen such amazing progress over the months," said Gisela, who had previously worked for Riding for the Disabled for 10 years.

"This is such a rewarding programme, to see these students achieve things they thought they never could; like one student, Richard [Gils] who two years ago could never walk on a balance beam and now has no problem with it."

The students, some of whom have Down syndrome, autism or cerebral palsy, range in age from 5 to their mid 40s. The attend separate classes for 1 to 1 hours, with no more than eight in a class.

At the prizegiving they received awards such as the gym for fun badge, where students need to take on a variety of gymnastics disciplines. There were also awards for most improved and most dedicated students.

"I have been doing the bar, the beam and floor work," said 17-year-old Poppy Boothman-Burrell, who has been attending gym classes for 2 years.

"I don't really have a favourite, I love them all, It is so much fun."

Marlborough Mayor Alistair Sowman handed out the awards.

"It's really an amazing programme that Gisela is running and I'm only too happy to give it my support. It takes a special person to be able to do this kind of work and do it so well. It is a real inspiration," Mr Sowman said.

Gisela has space for new students and can be contacted on 03 578 1618.

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- The Marlborough Express

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