Is there a Native Youth Special Olympics in the future? If there is, the first steps may have been taken this past weekend in the Crab Walk by a special education student from Teller.
Jeff Ericson, the coach of the Teller NYO team, has adapted several traditional games to accommodate Courtney Isabelle, a special needs student. He asked the Cook Inlet Tribal Council to include the Crab Walk as a special event this year during a break between the traditional competition events. The Council agreed.
Sunday Erickson watched as Courtney, a senior, won the Crab Walk against a gym full of competitors and mounted the podium Sunday to get her gold.
"For us it's Courtney's Crab Walk," Erickson said. " She's been in NYO since she was a seventh grader and loves the games and loves the spirit of the games but isn't physically equipped to do some of the more athletic events."
The crab walk is done by sitting on the floor, looking up at the ceiling, putting your hands and feet on the ground and lifting your bottom and walking forward while facing the ceiling.
Erickson hopes that organizers of the NYO open the doors to more participation of special ed students in the future. He says there are hundreds of traditional games that aren't featured in the statewide event that could be used to develop special games.
"We're hoping that Courtney is the kick start to start folding them into what we do here," he said.
Erickson says a large number of special needs students could potentially benefit from a "special needs" component in the NYO games.