Gift Boosts Effort to Open Doors to Sports for Kids With Learning Disabilities

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Thanks to a gift from Shire Pharmaceuticals, Play Like a Champion Today (PLC) will develop educational materials to assist coaches to work with children with a range of learning disabilities, pervasive developmental disorders, such as Asperger's Syndrome, and health problems, such as asthma.

A team of national experts will work with directors of the Play Like a Champion Today program to develop a national initiative preparing youth and high school coaches in the area of exceptionalities. Notre Dame's PLC program, now in its sixth year, offers an athlete-centered, research-based approach framing coaching as a character-building enterprise that complements the educational process. More than 17,000 coaches and 4,000 parents have participated in Play Like a Champion workshops where they are encouraged to see athletics as a means of having fun as well as promoting physical and moral development.

Clark Power, a Notre Dame Professor of Psychology and Education and co-director of PLC, expressed his gratitude to Shire. "This gift from Shire will enable PLC to prepare youth sport coaches throughout the country to work effectively with children, who through no fault of their own get left on the sidelines. "

Kristin Sheehan, a Notre Dame Monogram winner, who also serves as a PLC co-director, noted, "All children have much to gain from sports participation, this includes children with exceptionalities. This gift will give youth sport programs the resources that coaches and parents need to effectively include these children and help them to grow through the best that sports has to offer."

The PLC directors will work with experts in the fields of psychology, psychiatry, and education. The team includes: Dr. David Baron, professor of psychiatry at the Keck School of Medicine at the University of Southern California and director of the Global Center for Exercise, Psychiatry, and Sports at USC Medical Center; Dr. Thomas Power, Professor of School Psychology in Pediatrics and Program Director of the Center for Management of ADHD at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia; and Dr. Joyce Johnstone, Ryan Director of Educational Outreach and Senior Director for Program Development for Notre Dame's Institute for Educational Initiatives (IEI).

Play Like a Champion Today collaborates with the IEI and with the Alliance for Catholic Education (ACE), which together embody the University's commitment to foster excellence in K-12 educational settings, public and non-public.

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