Gym features fitness programs for special-needs children

- Inclusive Sports and Fitness is a specialized training facility that uses neuroscientific principles to help children with disabilities learn not only movement and motor skills but also cognition and social skills.

Alex Lopez is a professor of occupational therapy at New York Institute of Technology. Through grants and private funding, he opened the space in order to meet the needs of children living with autism, Down syndrome, and ADHD.

"They come here twice a week, it's an hour-and-a-half a session," Lopez said. "We have a staff of occupational therapists in the program."

A sports performing treadmill helps kids work on reaction time and the rock climbing wall helps fine-tune coordination skills. The ISF program pairs athletes with volunteer mentors.

ISF is a nonprofit organization. The athletes pay $25 a session and commit to 12 weeks at a time. The goal is to ultimately get kids into mainstream sports and other activities.

Brendan, 11, has made tremendous progress since he started the program.

"His grades have improved, he made honor roll," Michele Lake, his mother, said. "He's more task-oriented, he's more organized and his self-confidence improved."

It's about creating an environment of inclusivity while enhancing children's abilities to perform daily activities.

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