It may be a small-sized gym, but one of the head trainers at CrossFit Somers X has big dreams for a new type of class she offers on Saturday mornings.
Caitlin Schweigler, a 2010 graduate of Mahopac High School, went on to earn an undergraduate degree in speech language pathology and a masters in Applied Behavior Analysis. She uses those skills at a middle school in Ridgefield where she works one-on-one with students who have autism and Cerebral Palsy, among other challenges—and teaches them skills in socialization and interaction with others.
As a CrossFit trainer and an athlete herself, she had an idea to make engaging fitness classes available to young people of different abilities and so she designed “adaptive classes” at the gym where she works to do just that.
“I have a lot of experience with children with special needs and with kids and fitness.” Schweigler said. “Kids with needs deserve this just as much as other kids.”
A student from Schweigler’s class at school was the inspiration for launching the fun and dynamic program. The four-year old was making great progress learning to walk when Schweigler noticed how the young girl enjoyed watching her older siblings in gymnastics, dance, ninja warrior classes and also loved watching obstacle course races on TV.
Schweigler wished that more kids could enjoy fun, physical activities that could give them strength and confidence.
“Most children with autism have a lot of low-tone,” Schweigler explained. “Their musculature is a little bit lower to begin with, so that is what I wanted to work on the most.”
The class welcomes those with a range of challenges including ADHD as well as emotional needs and is open to any kid who wants to be there, she added.
The hour-long adaptive class began in March for young athletes who range in age from 7-13 years old. Their parents are asked to stay with their kids—for the warm-up, to learn the equipment and to bond, while doing a healthy activity together. Personal training sessions are also available.
Drawing on the philosophy of the CrossFit brand fitness regimen, where exercises are designed to be “constantly varied, high intensity, functional movements,” the new class includes animal movements like bear crawls or a duck walk—incorporating particular skills that translate into everyday movements like squatting, bending, sitting down and standing up safely. The kids can swing on rings, jump and build their bodies to the best of their individual abilities.
“It is my dream to do this for these kids,” Schweigler said. “Not every school has an adaptive facility, not every school has teachers trained in adaptive fitness. So being able to see them do things for themselves because now they can stand up by themselves or now they can get up out of the chair by themselves—they get a lot of confidence—it makes me very emotional.”