This feels very monumental to be writing my first blog post about Fit4Work. I feel like I should start at the beginning, the birth.
The idea of Fit4Work had been percolating for several years. It became a reality a few years ago, when I took the brave, bold move, to look at my students on my high school case load with a different lens: looking at them from the perspective of vocational aspiration, fitness and ergonomics. Suddenly, a whole lot of seemingly disconnected ideas became connected. I had administrative support, and so I began working with students in a different way and seeing some awesome results.
The inspiration was my Uncle Dave. Born in 1943 after a very long labor, my grandparents were told that he would not walk or talk. My grandfather was a PE teacher and my grandmother was an English teacher, and they taught him everything they could. He graduated from high school, volunteered at a fire department and retired from Echlin Mfg after 25 years as a custodian. He was a skier and bowler; he loved to travel and gamble. He had an intellectual disability.
Many of us take work for granted. Work is something we have to do, something to pay our bills. But work is a source of pleasure, a place to be social, and of course, make money so you have the financial freedom to do things. As educators, our goal is to prepare students for work life, whether it is directly to a job, vocational training programs or college. As I worked with my students I tried to understand why Dave had a successful work life and others did not. I began to relate the lack of fitness of our youth. I observed a physical therapist working in a work hardening clinic and understood how she prepared her patients to return to work after injury. She directed me to a wealth of ergonomic literature that directly relates physical ability to work capacity. And the Fit4Work Screen was born. The idea unites ergonomics, fitness, and disability literature to examine work capacity in school settings to increase work opportunties for students in special education. For more details, check out the slide deck on the front page of the website.
As a physical therapist, specializing in the human movement system, and working with how to support activity and participation in work settings, I saw multiple opportunities for consultation regarding work activities and school routines. I began using it in my middle and high schools. The PE teachers loved it, because it is fitness based. They appreciated generating activities that make a direct contribution to a students functional abilities. Consultation manifested itself into trainings on body mechanics for school staff, Life Skills Yoga, consultation at job sites, and ideas for integrating more activity into a students day. The teachers appreciated this level of expertise and information.
Initially I thought this was a book, since I had so much information, and then I realized it was not a book but rather a concept and a new way of practice. Deb Rose and I shared it at SOPAC 2015 and got a lot of accolades from our colleagues, which fueled the idea for a website as a place to share information.
Last month I came across an article published in 2010, about a school in Israel that analyzed the work capacity of students with and without a disability (more details in a later blog). Tonight, I came across 3 articles published in the 1980s in German (anyone out there want to translate for me?) on this very topic. We need assessment tools for adolescents and teens as well, and I have learned about some I will share with you here.
n to share article reviews, ideas, and how to use the content on this website. Please subscribe so that I can keep you informed, and if you would like to be a guest blogger that would be great too. Thanks for joining me in this journey. I am not sure where we will go but we have a lot of sources to help get us there :)