• Nick Zacharias

Kaméléon program shows its colours for kids with special needs


The Kaméléon gymnastics program that operates at Vaudreuil-Dorion’s Centre Multisports gives kids with physical or mental challenges the chance to integrate into the many courses offered by the club with the help of a shadow coach working one-on-one.

Over the past year, Club Gymini at the Multisport centre in Vaudreuil-Dorion has been offering a program called Kaméléon which gives kids with special needs of all varieties the chance to experience and train in recreational gymnastics in a fun and safe environment.

The program has been working so well that directors Andrée-Anne Long-Rivard and Laurent Tremblay-Dion travelled recently to the Université du Québec à Trois-Rivières to present it at the International Symposium on the Inclusive Experience of Leisure.

Says Tremblay-Dion, “We give participants the chance to integrate into the various recreational courses offered by the club, by giving them the assistance of a shadow-coach who helps them in any way they need. The coach/athlete ratio is one-to-one, so they are very well looked after and can really achieve new skills, and build confidence and self-esteem.”

The program is open to kids with physical or mental challenges, whether that means physical handicaps of any kind, developmental or intellectual disabilities, autism spectrum disorders, language or behavioural issues, and more.

“Really the only limitation is that they have to be able to stay with their coach, since there is activity at the same time on the other apparatus in the gym, if they are running away it could cause a safety problem – other than that we can work with anyone at all.”

The program is officially open to kids aged 4 to 16, but they have already been known to push the upper age limit a little where there is interest. It’s all about providing an enriching experience for those who can benefit and it’s rewarding for the coaches as well. Even the rest of the family can benefit.

“Because it can be difficult for families with more than one child to commute back and forth for activities, with travel times and wait times in between, we make sure to arrange things so that the child in the Kaméléon program and any siblings who pursue recreational gymnastics can do so in the same slot – the whole family can come at the same time, which makes things easier for everyone.”

The program fits with a spirit of helping and inclusiveness, values supported by the club, which was founded as a not-for-profit organization over 40 years ago.

Says Tremblay-Dion, “Even with the one-on-one coaching ratio, the Kaméléon program costs exactly the same as the regular recreational programs and any tax breaks or other assistance can lower the cost even more. We want to make sure we’re open to everyone.”

So far that openness has meant they’ve welcomed 10 kids who have signed up for the season. The season lasts about 12 weeks, with one-hour sessions happening once a week, and they have room for more. Tremblay-Dion says that they currently “have no waiting list, unlike some of our other programs, and we have spaces available for more kids. Even if we do fill all our spots, we are open to the idea of creating more room if the demand is there.”

If you know a participant who could benefit from this service, more information can be found online at http://www.clubgymini.org/, or you can just call (450) 455-3141 and they’ll fill you in.