Maribel Melendez enjoys scuba diving, yoga and karate and won’t let her quadriplegic cerebral palsy stop her. Nominated for the March of Dimes and Comcast SportsNet’s Inspirational Athlete of the year in 2010, she’s made living an active and healthy lifestyle one of her top priorities.
Pamela Patt, manager of nutrition services at Shriner’s Hospital for Children in Chicago, says leading an active lifestyle is especially important for individuals with disabilities. But that is sometimes easier said than done. Unless children with physical disabilities have a very good adaptive physical education teacher, Pamela says they may end up as the score keeper, goalie or may even be put in a different room to play a Wii, for example.
“From a psycho social standpoint, the ability to be with other people and do an activity with them and actually be doing the same activity is really, really important,” Pamela says.
Additionally, children with disabilities often have less muscle mass than their peers. If they don’t work to build that muscle, they will lose it (just like everyone else) and become more prone to obesity and other health issues. When Pamela saw how dedicated Maribel was to her physical health, she knew she could serve as an inspiration to other children and teens:
“We actually have a couple of younger kids that come here that take karate and do yoga at the same place that Maribel does and they just look up to her for not only her kindness and encouragement but also just the fact that look, she’s doing all of these things so there’s no reason that I can’t.”
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