A physical education specialist, Jeff Key, talked to students about what he calls “Awesome PE” at 1 p.m. Thursday in the Teaching, Learning and Professional Development Center.
Key hosts a physical education class every Tuesday at the Exercise Sports Center for students of the Burkhart Center for Autism Education and Research who deal with a higher spectrum of autism and can work on their fitness.
“I’ve been in education 28 years and it took me 18 years to find my passion and my gift,” he said. “My gift is working with kids with special needs.”
Key gave a slideshow presentation with pictures of some of the students playing games and showed videos, including one of a Burkhart graduate who was on the television show “So You Think You Can Dance.”
The video was of Sam Shreffler’s dance performance, and it received a standing ovation. Despite not advancing to the next round, Shreffler stayed positive throughout the audition.
The next video was of Jason McElwain, an autistic basketball player who hit six 3-pointers in one game. Key said he was trying to show that despite the disabilities, these people did amazing things.
“I hope they have an awareness that students of all abilities have a desire to stay fit for a lifetime and can, it’s just a matter of overcoming some of the fears,” he said.
Key was going to host an interactive event with his students, but because it was Halloween none of his students could make it, he said.
Chancy Price, a senior academic counselor who helped set up the event, said the event was part of Disability Awareness Week and is one of the different events going on throughout the week.
“We’re just really hoping that people get out ways to better work with their students,” she said.
Thirteen college-aged students walked into the Exercise Sports Center, stretch and went to four different stations that had fitness routines or games, such as basketball or tennis, Key said.
He said he wants to help his students with social benefits, including taking turns and sharing, but wants to make sure it’s age appropriate to them so he plays music like Train and Mumford and Sons, and makes sure not to treat them like children.
They hosted their own version of the Special Olympics where students were given medals and certificates of participation — something the students loved, Key said.
Madison Viladevall, a freshman early childhood education major from Crawford, said she attended because she is thinking about working in special education. She learned people have to adapt to the students’ level and not rush things.
The ribbon cutting for the new Burkhart Center is Nov. 8.