The feel of grass on a baseball field, the kinesthetic movements involved with the sport or the sound of cheers after the solid crack of ball-to-bat contact are part of the enjoyment of baseball.
But the way children with sensory processing disorder and autism spectrum disorder receive those experiences can result in motor clumsiness, behavioral problems and anxiety.
"We want to challenge their senses," said certified therapeutic recreation specialist Shelly Beaver.
Mirror photo by J.D. Cavrich
Penn?State Altoona kid campers spent Tuesday morning with Altoona Curve players at Peoples Natural Gas Field. Player Tyler Waldron helps Chase Walker get ready to hit.
So, Penn State Altoona's nursing students and the Altoona Curve helped 20 children with autism spectrum disorder break in their sensory integration skills the way a catcher might break in his mitt: by playing ball.
The Altoona Curve treated the children, ages 4 to 12, to a day of play Tuesday at Peoples Natural Gas Field as part of Penn State Altoona's Sense-ational Endeavors summer program, led by Beaver.
Some players rolled ground balls with groups of children, while others helped with batting stances as children hit balls off a tee and ran the bases against Curve infielders. Infielder Jarek Cunningham expressed his pride in how one young girl returned his pitch with a line-drive straight to his face.
"It's nice to see the players give back to the community," said Cheryl Malloy of Johnstown, whose 11-year-old son's swing and hit could be heard on the field. "He is a big fan" of the team, she added.
Sense-ational Endeavors is the first Penn State educational enhancement program in south-central Pennsylvania for children with cognitive, emotional and social disabilities. The two-week program includes music, arts and dance.
"It's hard, but rewarding when you see them [the children] make strides they are trying to make," said nursing student Jenny Knecht, who is also certified to provide therapeutic support staff services to children.
Children from Blair, Cambria and Huntingdon counties are participating this week in the second annual installment of the program funded solely by HealthSouth Rehabilitation Hospital of Altoona.
Curve pitcher Gerrit Cole and his teammates were having as much fun as the children on Tuesday.
"These opportunities with kids are always fun," Cole said. "It's cool to see them play around."
Mirror Staff Writer Russ O'Reilly is at 946-7435.