URI’s College of Education awarded a Flutie Foundation Signature Grant to establish sports programs for children with disabilities

Funding will support URI Xtreme Inclusion sports programs for children with autism and other disabilities, and is the only program of its kind in R.I.

KINGSTON, R.I. — July 1, 2024 — This summer, children with autism and other physical disabilities will be able to enjoy aquatic fun and surf therapy at Narragansett Town Beach through a $10,000 grant awarded to the University of Rhode Island’s Feinstein College of Education by the Doug Flutie Jr. Foundation for Autism.

Beginning in January 2025, adapted dance and rock climbing will be added to URI’s Xtreme sports offerings. The dance program will be held at the Tootell Dance Studio on URI’s Kingston Campus, and the climbing activities at Rock Spot Climbing gym in Peace Dale.

URI’s Xtreme Sports is the only disability sports inclusion program of its kind in the state.

Participants ages 5-21 will take part in eight-week programs designed for individuals with developmental, sensory and physical disabilities.

All programs are free of charge to participants, their families and caregivers. Each participant will be paired with a URI student or volunteer to help set goals and work collaboratively with families for optimal learning opportunities.

Established at URI in 2003, URI Xtreme Inclusion Action Sports provides adapted aquatic therapy for children with disabilities. Since 2015, under the direction of Emily Clapham, URI associate professor of health and physical education, the program has expanded to include fitness activities including dance, yoga, rock climbing and cooperative games.

“The primary goal of the program is to encourage children to incorporate physical activity into their daily routine to sustain a healthy and active lifestyle throughout their lives,” said Clapham.

“The programs provide participants with physical, mental, and emotional benefits, as they provide a unique and inclusive opportunity for children with disabilities to engage in new physical activities, to learn about the importance of healthy lifestyles and habits, enhance physical fitness and ability, and to build a community among their peers.”

Clapham added that children participating in the program gain improved physical abilities and confidence, improve their social skills and self-esteem, learn about the importance of physical activity, and learn in an environment where they feel valued and accepted.

The Doug Flutie Jr. Foundation for Autism was founded by National Football League quarterback Doug Flutie when his son Doug Jr. was diagnosed with autism at age 3. The foundation serves to empower families and individuals affected by autism.