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Zumba class aids locals with autism
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If you need a reason to exercise, how about a worthy cause? A local Zumba fitness instructor will be holding a class as a fundraiser to benefit local children with autism.
“Every penny raised will go to the Pre-Pioneer Learning Center located at Hickory Creek Elementary School,” said instructor Liz Stokesberry.
Zumba for Autism will be held Saturday, April 12 from 1 to 2:30 p.m. at Bobby Ray Elementary’s gymnasium. Admission is $7. The funds will be given to the Pre-Pioneer Learning Center for supplies and establishing a fund to support education for local children with autism.
The event is being offered on the same day as the Autism 5K in historic downtown McMinnville, but not at the same time. The race begins at 8 a.m.
Stokesberry says another difference in the two fundraisers is where the money goes.
“The Autism 5K is wonderful,” she said. “It’s proceeds will go to Autism Speaks, a phenomenal organization that funds research. It’s a national organization. I wanted to do something that will specifically benefit local children with autism.”
Stokesberry is a licensed Zumba instructor. Her family moved to Warren County about six months ago. Prior to the move, she lived in New York and was actively involved in raising funds for a school there that is dedicated to children with autism.
Zumba is a fitness program, also called a dance fitness party, that combines Latin and international music with dance moves. Zumba routines incorporate interval training — alternating fast and slow rhythms.
Zumba for Autism will also raise awareness about the Pre-Pioneer Learning Center, says Stokesberry.
“A lot of people in Warren County don’t even know the Pre-Pioneer Learning Center exists,” she said. “Something needs to be done to raise awareness about the center.”
Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and autism are both general terms for a group of complex disorders of brain development. These disorders are characterized, in varying degrees, by difficulties in social interaction, verbal and nonverbal communication, and repetitive behaviors. In May 2013, all autism disorders were merged into one umbrella diagnosis of ASD.
The Pre-Pioneer Learning Center is less a center and more a classroom for pre-school students countywide who have special needs, says special education teacher Deborah Hutchins.
“This isn’t exactly a center, per say,” she said. “What I do is I run a classroom of 3- and 4-year-old students who need IEPs. That stands for Individual Education Programs.”
The class is not just for children with autism. It caters to the needs of each individual student and offers a program specifically for autistic children.
“It’s a self-contained classroom and we offer a program that is appropriate for autistic children,” said Hutchins, who confirms that funding is needed. “As a program, we need outdoor equipment. For instance, we have exactly one tricycle, and at this time we have eight students. They have to share it. We need at least a couple more.”
Tricycles serve a dual purpose for students in the Pre-Pioneer Learning Center. As well as being fun to ride, they improve their social interaction, verbal and nonverbal communication and repetitive behaviors — the areas where autistic children have difficulty.
For more information about Pre-Pioneer Learning Center and its needs, call 668-3823.