YUMA, Ariz. - "If I'm able to give these students an opportunity to participate and be unified within our community with the rest on us, then I'm going t give everyday that I can back to our students" say Kathy Wyer, Nurse Practitioner of Desert Care Associates.
The Special Olympics provides year-round sports training and athletic competition in a variety of Olympic-type sports for children and adults with intellectual disabilities.
With 180,000 Arizonans with these disabilities, many of whom reside in Yuma County, Kathy Wyer is making it possible for them to compete based on her personal experience.
"It began with the birth of our son Eean, who now just 8 years old, but we found out after we moved here to Yuma at about the age of 3 1/2 to 4, that hes was special needs. He's high functioning Autistic with sensory processing disorder and so I kind of locked him away and I thought, but that's why Special Olympics came about. Is to pull people with special needs out of the institutions and give them a life, because each of them are such a special person".
Physical evaluations are a necessary requirement and without them, students cant participate. It's been a difficult task finding medical providers to perform these exams, but over the last three years Kathy has initiated a program to make it happen.
She Says, "We want to unify individuals with intellectual disabilities in our work places, within our community, and within our sports. So this is called the 'Unified project'. So, basically I'm going into each of these schools, and perform their medical, physical exams."
This basic exam covers seven areas to ensure athletes are able to participate including: eyes, hearing, health promotion, podiatry, dentistry, physical therapy and physicals.
"So I'm looking at those areas to say, 'hey can we provide them with glasses, he can we provide them with hearing aids. It's just providing them extra services and helping their primary health care providers out" Kathy explains.
As a medical provider with her own practice, she wants to empowered the community and show the benefits of this type of health care to Yuma's special Olympians, but as a mother it means so much more.
Kathy concludes, "Its very emotional to me, because as a mom, I want my child to be accepted within the community. I've always said I would put a new face to the name of Special Olympics and to intellectual disabilities because these people have such a talent. It may not be the talent that you and I have, but they have a talent to give back to out community."