Poughkeepsie, New York….As athletes gear up for the 2017 New York State Winter Special Olympics games, Anderson Center for Autism residential student Jonathan is hard at work. Peterson, who has participated in track and field events at Special Olympics over the past three years (and earned bronze medals), will be hitting the ice for the first time in the figure skating competition on Saturday, February 18th (sometime between 12-2pm; time to be announced) at the McCann Ice Arena (14 Civic Center Plaza, Poughkeepsie).
As told by mother Karla, Peterson’s story speaks to the importance of the games: “He started skating when he first enrolled at Anderson Center for Autism in February 2012, introduced to the sport by Anna LaFerriere, recreation program coordinator,
and has made strides in expressive language, balance, socialization, coordination, and so much more since being part of the therapeutic recreation program at Anderson; it has opened up his world. This is the first year Jonathan was coached weekly one-on-one with Laurie May, and she taught him skills necessary to participate in the Special Olympics for both his compulsory and musical programs. Her creative, kind approach with positive energy seems to inspire Jonathan to do his best. One of Laurie May’s student volunteers, Claire Macedonia, skates almost every week with Jonathan as well, helping him practice skills.”
And according to his mom, the benefits of being involved in skating have gone beyond Jonathan’s developmental progress, also giving him an “amazing opportunity to work with his outstanding, dedicated coach Laurie May” and to participate in related events, such as the “Lunch with Legends of Skating” event held in October at the Poughkeepsie Grand Hotel, where he met and was photographed with Dick Button, JoJo Starbuck, Janet Lynn, Slavka Kouhout Button, Karen Courtland Kelly and Patrick Kelly, among others. “He loved getting dressed up and being a part of the special event,” said Karla.
Karla continued, “My family (brother Zachary, grandmother Kit, “Nana”) and I are so honored and grateful Jonathan is a part of Anderson Center for Autism, and, he will continue to be a part of Anderson as an adult. It is a remarkable program with incredible staff. Jonathan is in a phenomenal environment where he is supported, challenged, loved and encouraged in every facet of his life every day. We are so proud of him and all of his accomplishments. Now at 20 years old, Jonathan is approaching a new part of his journey-he will be transitioning to an adult residence this year where he will continue growing and learning socially, recreationally, and vocationally-optimizing his quality of life.”
Autism is a neurological disorder which impacts communication, processing, and motor skills; about 1 in 68 individuals are impacted, according to the Centers for Disease Control. Anderson Center for Autism is known for its innovative Quality of Life initiative, designed to assess domains such as self-determination, emotional well-being, physical well-being, material well-being, rights, personal development, social inclusion, and interpersonal relations to measure quality of life; the organization provides educational, residential, vocational, and recreational programs in context of those broader quality of life goals.
To learn more, visit AndersonCenterforAutism.org or specialolympics-ny.org/hudsonvalley
Our mission at Anderson Center for Autism is to optimize quality of life for people with autism.