Nikola Kendall, better known as Nicky among his family and friends, was probably among the last people anyone would have thought would become a regular at the gym.That’s because Nicky was born with Down syndrome nineteen years ago.
At that time, doctors’ hopes and expectations for individuals with Down syndrome were pretty basic. Generally the advice to parents of these children was mostly along the lines of “simply enjoy them” and don’t expect too much. Fortunately, Nicky’s parents, Mark and Gabriela Kendall, had other plans for Nicky.
“We have always had the same expectations of Nicky as we did of the older kids,” explained Gabriela, “we just modify as we go.” When they learned about the early intervention services and therapies available through UCP Central PA, they signed Nicky up.
Since then, no one has ever looked back… least of all Nicky.
Nicky received a variety of supports--including Occupational Therapy, Physical Therapy and Speech Therapy--from the time he was eight months old until he reached age three. His mother credits these supports with helping Nicky’s socialization and skill development. She especially liked the family training from the therapists that allowed her and Mark to follow up on the therapies with Nicky on their own.
When he was in elementary school, Nicky and his friend Ben Stambaugh, began participating in UCP’s summer recreation program... and they’ve been going back every year since. Nicky and Ben are both independent enough to share an aide, who works with them in the camp. In their younger years they swam, made crafts, and played games. As they got older they moved together into Frontier Camp where they enjoyed canoeing, archery, and other outdoor activities. These days, their participation in camp has more of a service project orientation.
The Kendalls greatly appreciate the opportunity for their son to be integrated into a traditional camp, rather than one which is designed for children and youth with disabilities. Says Gabriela:
It’s wonderful for the kids’ socialization. Many camps would be hesitant to take a child with special needs, but here we are able to do it because of the additional support.
Read Nikola's full story in the Winter/Spring 2010 Issue of Life Without Limits
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