Health Check: Meeting Street Games

Children participate in the Meeting Street Games, Thursday, May 14, 2015.

Over the years, Meeting Street in Providence has expanded to not only educate children with special needs, but all children.

A special event Thursday brought them all together on the playing field. Those in preschool on up took part in the Meeting Street Games as part of the Achilles Kids program.

"We started with six schools in New York City back in 1995," said Karen Lewis, Achilles Kids program director.

And now this program reaches students at 200 schools in 14 states, including Meeting Street in Rhode Island.

"Our program is very big on mainstream events and inclusion," Lewis said. "It helps break down barriers."

"We structure all our events so that all kids can participate regardless of their ability level and make it fun," Lewis said.

And just so you're clear, this is not a competition.

"It's more a celebration of movement and running that it's fun," said Mary Cooper of Meeting Street Grace School.

Many of the participating schools are special needs only, but at the Meeting Street Grace School, which goes through grade five, the classes are inclusive -- a great mix, featuring an important lesson.

"We all play together. We find a way, like for this, if a child can't walk or run we use a walker or a bike," Cooper said.

Jenna Herrera has a second-grader here.

"I think it's a wonderful experience for her to have," Herrera said. "It helps not only for able-bodied to understand not everybody is the same, but it helps for special needs to understand that it's OK to be different."

A study done by Reuters Health a few years ago showed children with disabilities benefit from the right exercise program. They show improved quality of life and better function.

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