We started teaching fitness classes designed for individuals with developmental disabilities such as autism, cerebral palsy or Down syndrome. Our goal is to help them increase strength, motor coordination, social skills and overall wellness. And we can surely see God’s hand in all this, especially how He brought us together and made this happen so seamlessly.
We worked in the same school district as contract speech-language pathologists. We were frequently moved from school to school and didn’t really come in contact with one another, but in August of 2020, we ended up assigned to the same school. We found ourselves bonding over our shared passion for fitness. We also both noticed a lack of services and opportunities available to students and young adults with disabilities. Our dream of a “perfect world” suddenly sparked an idea: to offer fitness classes to individuals with disabilities. It was also quite a “coincidence” that we both had certifications for personal and group training. It was almost as if God orchestrated our meeting and these conversations with one another.
Our sudden idea blossomed within days into a mission and a purpose that all bodies are able and deserving of access to a workout program that meets each person at an individualized level, and in a social community of peers. We wanted to bring weightlifting to the differently-abled community and inspire them to become the best versions of themselves—physically, mentally and socially.
Exercise improves so much more than our physical body. Individuals with developmental disabilities, like autism, cerebral palsy or Down syndrome, often present with differences in muscle tone, coordination, motor planning and sensory systems, which can negatively impact their physical movement and even their speech production. Since we both worked with individuals who are non-speaking, we also hypothesized that strengthening the muscles and increasing coordination for gross motor movements might also help increase motor planning and coordination of muscles and movement used for speaking.
Just two months later, with encouragement from one of our founding participants, we found a gym to rent and hosted our very first fitness class for four differently-abled individuals. We named our program Able Fit. And now, after only a year, it’s blossomed to over 40 different members.
Our classes focus on real strength training through weightlifting where participants learn proper form, how to spot each other, increase their strength, coordination, and social skills. Able Fit classes are not a modified PE class. We create an environment to support unique needs without lowering the expectation of what is possible for all bodies.
Our classes have grown into a fit-family and community for our members and their parents/caregivers, with lifelong friendships developing among our coaches and participants. We’ve seen incredible changes in strength, coordination, range of movement, motor planning, confidence, communication and socialization. It is a joy to see these amazing changes.
We do not label Able Fit as a Christian business, although our morals and values align with the way Jesus treated people; all with kindness and acceptance, regardless of their abilities, background, culture, religion or beliefs. We strive to be an example for other businesses on how to be inclusive and accessible, and maintain high expectations for differently-abled individuals. We believe this is how a community should function, where all people are valued and included.