DPT students provide free resources for adaptive gymnastics during pandemic

The end of March brought unexpected challenges and difficult decisions as COVID-19 forced businesses to close for the foreseeable future. Balance 180, a local non-profit gym geared toward adaptive gymnastics, had to make the tough call to close its gym.

For Ashley Tringas and Kayce Whitbeck, third-year Doctor of Physical Therapy students, Children on the Go REACH group co-directors for the Class of 2021, and INSPIRE scholars, the closure became an obstacle for them to evaluate and overcome. The duo is passionate about working with children, especially those with special needs, and they have spent considerable amounts of time volunteering with Balance 180, so they have witnessed firsthand the true value in the adaptive sessions for these children and their families.

Photo of Ashley Tringas and Kayce Whitbeck
From left to right: Ashley Tringas and Kayce Whitbeck

They took on the challenge to help keep the gymnasts active during quarantine as a part of their Health Promotion and Wellness project.

In early April, the two virtually met with leaders and staff at Balance 180, UF Department of Physical Therapy faculty, and leaders of the Children on the Go REACH group to gauge the needs of the athletes, children 2-17 years-old who have a wide range of physical and cognitive disabilities. The group recognized the need to provide free, online resources to replace the adaptive gymnastics sessions, and ensure that these resources are easy to access while at home.

After the initial meeting, Tringas and Whitbeck began the process of creating the Google Classroom collection of follow-along videos to replicate the stretches, vault, bars, beam, and bar stations that the children were familiar with at Balance 180.

At first, a majority of their volunteers were coaches and assistant coaches from Balance 180 and fellow DPT students. However, once Tringas and Whitbeck submitted their Google Classroom project to become a part of the UF Chapter of the COVID-19 Student Services Corps (CSSC), an interprofessional collaboration service organization for UF students to aid the Gainesville community during the pandemic, the two were able to recruit a wider audience of volunteers.

screenshot of Google Classroom

As part of the UF CSSC, students from a variety of UF programs – Doctor of Occupational Therapy, Doctor of Audiology, UF College of Medicine, and those receiving a Bachelors of Health Science on the Pre-Occupational Therapy track, Public Health, and Communication Sciences and Disorders programs – contributed to the volunteer efforts to provide resources for children with intellectual and physical disabilities.

As involvement in the project grew, the types of videos that were submitted expanded. The Google Classroom now includes songs, dances, and cheers that were regularly used at the gym, as well as follow-along sign-language videos, storybook readings, educational content regarding COVID-19, and new songs and dances.

The response from the athletes and their families, Balance 180 staff, UF PT faculty and students has all been positive, with one parent quoting, “This has been fantastic.”

“We were grateful to have so many volunteers from various professions willing to contribute to our project, as well as UF PT faculty, Balance 180 staff, and DPT students coming together to help make this project a success,” Tringas and Whitbeck said.

If you’re interested in creating activity and educational videos for the Google Classroom, please email Ashley Tringas at atringas@ufl.edu and Kayce Whitbeck at kmwhitbeck@ufl.edu for volunteer information.