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Special Athletes Play to Win at CECO Event

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Students, families, and staff from Conductive Education Center of Orlando (CECO) gathered at Downey Park on Friday, March 15, for the fifth annual CECO Special Olympics. The games, geared toward building motor and social skills, are an extension of the Winter Park-based organization’s mission with the bonus of a sports-inspired outdoor event.

CECO provides specialized programming for children and adults with neurological and motor disabilities. The nonprofit was founded in 2001 by Joe and Vicky Raymond to help their son, Joseph, who was diagnosed with cerebral palsy after a series of medical issues throughout his infancy. “We didn’t know what to do,” Vicky Raymond told the32789, “until we found out about this program and what it offers.”

Vicky and Joe Raymond founded CECO to help their son, Joseph, and the many children and adults who face the same challenges.

Developed in Hungary, Conductive Education therapies help build cognitive, physical, social, and self-care skills. The lack of local programs prompted the Raymonds to contact a certified Conductive Education therapist – known as a “conductor” – for assistance. The result was a five-week trial program for Joseph and five other students, hosted by St. Peter and Paul Catholic Church. The effort grew into a five-day per week school day schedule with additional classes for adults and summer camp offerings at CECO’s state-of-the-art facility, located at 931 S. Semoran Blvd. The current enrollment of approximately 70 children and adults take part in activities geared toward specific groups and needs.

Approximately 45 CECO students tested and developed their fine and gross motor skills through a series of therapeutic activities at CECO Special Olympics.

“It depends on goals and socialization,” said CECO conductor Molly Saulgozis. “Conductive education lasts a lifetime; learning to be independent and participate in your life as much as you can is continuing.”

A staff of nine conductors and 90 volunteer assistants from area colleges and medical schools help students and adults with their education. Developing muscles and coordination is hard work for students and staff, but a Motor Activity Training Program, developed by Special Olympics, puts a different spin on therapeutic practices with sports-inspired team and individual activities.

CECO Special Olympics employs the developmental strategies of the Motor Activity Training Program, created by Special Olympics.
CECO conductor Chris Hankins gathers players for a ball-rolling challenge.
Motor and muscular skills are built through the act of rolling a ball down a metal ramp.
The goal is to get the ball as close as possible to a series of markers.
Conductors and assistants help students prep for a tug of war.

Saulgozis says the introduction of the games into the daily schedule provided a physical education-style approach for a curriculum that could not have offered it. “Students have told their parents that they don’t realize they’re doing therapy,” she said. “It’s a very age-appropriate, motivating way to develop gross and fine motor skills.”

Assistants help eight-year-old Grayson to build coordination by hammering pegs into a block.
Participants gather for a parachute exercise that not only builds motor skills but shows how group involvement creates big results.

Approximately 45 students and 75 guests attended Friday’s event, which included a tug of war, a ring-toss-style game of skill, and ball rolling challenge. But camaraderie and positive reinforcement are what CECO Special Olympics is all about.

The Raymonds are thankful for what CECO has grown into and realize there is more to achieve. “People see this level of success, but this is the end result of the daily challenges that families face,” said Vicky Raymond. “It was never just about helping Joseph; we have a waitlist and we’re growing beyond capacity, so we are looking for ways to expand. There’s more that we need to do and it’s all so worth it.”

For more information on CECO programs and ways to help, log onto CECO.org.

A medal ceremony presents all participants with their own symbol of achievement.
High fives from friends, family and staffers cap off the event.
The smiles continue for a group photo.
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