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SOVT & UVM Doctor of Physical Therapy Program Partner on Healthy Athletes Initiative

Updated: Mar 17, 2021

Special Olympics Vermont (SOVT) has partnered with the University of Vermont’s Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) Program to create a mutually impactful health program involving SOVT athletes and UVM DPT students. The Triple Combine Fitness Challenge is a 10-week at-home fitness competition for Special Olympics athletes across the state of Vermont. As part of SOVT’s Healthy Athletes initiative, athletes were given the option to work with a UVM DPT student throughout the challenge via Zoom.

Over 100 athletes are participating in the Triple Combine Fitness Challenge, and 40 are paired with UVM DPT students. The partnership allows Special Olympics athletes to stay active and compete, while receiving virtual health assessments from physical therapy students. UVM students in turn practice telemedicine skills and gain an increased understanding of people with intellectual disabilities.

“The Triple Combine Fitness Challenge has provided Special Olympics athletes and UVM Doctoral PT students ongoing opportunities in place of the usual events and interactions that would occur through the Special Olympics Vermont Healthy Athletes program,” said UVM Clinical Director Joel Desautels, PT, ATC. “Given the restrictions with being cautious during the COVID-19 pandemic, this fitness challenge has become a great alternative to keep the athletes engaged and active as they are not able to get together safely with their coaches and teams to exercise and compete.”

The Special Olympics Healthy Athletes program is an initiative for inclusive health that offers free health screenings in a fun, welcoming environment that removes the anxiety and trepidation people with intellectual disabilities often experience when faced with a visit to a medical professional’s office. SOVT offers Healthy Athlete screenings in dentistry, physical therapy, optometry, audiology and nutrition. The program also aims to inform and change the way health systems interact with people with intellectual disabilities.

“The Healthy Athletes program has always been mutually beneficial to the athletes and the PT students as a way to recognize health issues or physical impairments that could and should be addressed for the athletes, as well as providing PT students valuable practice in clinical skills and communication,” said Desautels. “It has been impressive to see how the athletes and students can interact and accomplish physical activity safely using virtual meeting spaces. We all hope that next year’s events are like the years past, but for this year the athletes and students are making the best of it and making it another success story and example of perseverance.”

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