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Abilities 21 supporting children with special needs

Abilities 21 supporting children with special needs
(Courtesy: Kimberly Hart) 

HAWLEY, Pa. — Abilities 21 is a local support group for children with special needs. Kimberly Hart, president and founder, started Abilities 21 when her son, Jake, was just a few years old; he had been born with Down Syndrome.

At the time, Kimberly knew very little about DS or what the future held for herself and her son. In the process of looking for answers to these questions and more, she saw that there really wasn’t much in our area in the way of support for families like hers. This is when she began Abilities 21. Kimberly wanted to let other families know they were not alone, and that together they could all support each other to navigate this new world!

Jake, Julia and Kim Hart. (Courtesy: Kimberly Hart) 

Events are held every month at Abilities 21,  from swim dates at the Carbondale YMCA, meetups at the Zensory Zone and Bee’s Backyard, to attendance to hockey games, visits to Santa, and more!

In the last two years, Kimberly has witnessed how much isolation has affected individuals with special needs. It has wrecked their daily routines, physical activity, and socialization. “They have lost  much more than anyone realizes,” reveals Kimberly. That is when she decided to take her personal journey of weight loss, which she began two years ago, on another route… to personal training. In doing so, she got her certification to become a personal trainer.

When taking this time for herself, Kimberly realized how important it is to be your best self before you can be the best for anyone else. She advises, “Personal fitness is more than just working out. It is an overall wellness which helps you mentally, physically, and emotionally.” Working with all individuals, especially those with special needs, was a strong desire that tied everything together for Kimberly.

She began a class for special-needs individuals called Abilities 21 Fitness, which is held on Sundays at Master Fitness in Lake Ariel. They found that many of their kids excelled at being part of a closed group. The class is limited to only eight children, and at the time the class is held, the gym is closed, and holds the class privately. Some children have done a great job with this arrangement. Others have done outstanding with one-on-one personal training with Kimberly. Much of the public doesn’t know that this is available to our individuals with special needs.

(Courtesy: Kimberly Hart) 

“Patience is most important to me when it comes to training individuals with special needs,“ Kimberly explains. There are times that she can have them right on point doing everything with her, and other times she will just walk around and talk with the children because maybe that is what is needed at that moment. She further tells us, “That’s perfectly fine. It’s not about pushing them out of their comfort zone it’s about working with them to help them succeed in moving out of their comfort zone.” She has had so many parents tell her that their child would never do something, or that they didn’t think their child would like “doing” something. Yet, in the end, they are always surprised to see what their child is capable of. “Far too often” she states, “we underestimate the strength of our children.”

Many children have lost out on physical therapy, occupational therapy, and speech therapy over the past two years, and at Abilities 21 Fitness, Kimberly includes all of this in her personal training.

The kids really enjoy it, too! It is fun for them because they don’t see it as working out or training, they think they are just playing a game and having fun. Some train inside the gym, and others are trained outside at a park, where they are walking, sprinting, playing on a jungle gym, or running through cones.

Kimberly works with parents to set rewards for every child. This helps to keep them on track and helps them feel proud of what they accomplish! She offers, “It melts my heart to see the joy they experience in their journey to good health.” If anyone is interested in having their child join the class or take part in personal training, they can contact Kimberly directly, and she can help them with funding arrangements at 570-840-6961 or kahart105@yahoo.com. They may also contact their service coordinator for funding information.

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