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Kinesiology students at the Special Olympics Texas

TCU Kinesiology students made a meaningful impact by conducting approximately 50 health screenings at the Special Olympics Texas Fall Classic this month. A dedicated team of four students journeyed to College Station, Texas for this important endeavor.

These screenings took place within the heartwarming setting of the Healthy Athlete Village, offering students invaluable hands-on experience in interacting with both children and adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

“This was an experience I’ll never forget,” said Lucia Ibrahim ’24, a movement science major. “Learning to interact with the individuals while providing quality care and having a meaningful impact on their day was a dream come true; I’m so thankful for this opportunity.”

Each screening involved comprehensive measurements, including height, weight, body mass index (BMI), blood pressure and bone mineral density. Following the assessments, students engaged in meaningful discussions with the athletes to discuss their individual results and provide education and guidance on maintaining a healthy lifestyle.

“The work with health promotions and the Healthy Athletes Program is important because it provides these athletes a valuable service in a low stake, low stress environment,” said Associate Professor of Professional Practice and Undergraduate Program Director Phil Esposito, Ph.D. “It also serves as a bridge to help connect these individuals with services they might need but didn’t even know about.”

The tradition of Special Olympics Healthy Athletes® commenced in 1997, offering Special Olympics athletes free health screenings and education in a welcoming, enjoyable atmosphere. TCU Kinesiology students have collectively conducted nearly 1,500 health screenings since 2012 under Esposito’s guidance, who now serves as the clinical director for health promotions at Special Olympics Texas. This commitment underscores our dedication to fostering the well-being of these exceptional athletes.

“I was involved when I was a graduate student at the University of Michigan,” explains Esposito. “It was meaningful experience for me that I wanted to share with students when I began at TCU.”

Student provinding health screening to special olympics athlete

Moreover, this experience served a dual purpose as it allowed our students to gather data for their senior research projects. For instance, senior movement science major Eric Eaton channeled his passion for physical therapy by investigating the effectiveness of ankle-foot orthosis in adults with intellectual disabilities and Down syndrome.

“The excitement and energy from the athletes and their families was palpable and inspiring,” said Eaton. “I was able to apply concepts that I have been learning about in the classroom in the real world and share that with members of the community through my research which felt fulfilling and impactful. I feel lucky to have been able to work so closely with Dr. Esposito to make this research project a reality and look forward to analyzing the data and preparing my thesis in the months ahead.”