The Acadia S.M.I.L.E. (Sensory Motor Instructional Leadership Experience) Program is an innovative, academic-based, yet volunteer-driven program that provides persons with varying disabilities a unique physical activity experience in order to improve their total development as individuals. To achieve this goal, an individual education plan is developed for each of our participants that includes: water orientation; physical fitness activities to improve strength, endurance and flexibility; and perceptual motor programs to enhance development of body awareness, spatial awareness, temporal awareness and sport skills. All of this is done within a safe environment of play and fun in which Acadia University student-volunteers provide one-on-one instruction to our participants, and in the process, develop their own leadership skills.
S.M.I.L.E. runs Tuesday and Thursday mornings, Friday evenings and Saturday mornings throughout the academic year at Acadia University in Wolfville, Nova Scotia. During the 2014-2015 academic year, S.M.I.L.E. had over 250 participants and 450 student-volunteers involved in the program.
Professor Jack Scholz, a respected faculty member in Acadia University’s School of Recreation and Physical Education and head coach of the Acadia men's and women's varsity swim team, founded S.M.I.L.E. in 1982. An Acadia graduate who was teaching a special education class in Kings County had asked Professor Scholz if he could provide Aquatic instruction to seven of his students. Jack recruited the required volunteers for this task and so S.M.I.L.E. was born.
News of the program spread quickly and two other classes from different local schools were added. It was at this time that Ted Muggah, Supervisor of Special Education in for Kings County, became involved and the program expanded to aquatic instruction on Tuesdays and Thursdays and a Saturday morning session that includes gymnasium and aquatic instruction and a group activity. More recently, Friday Night sessions were added for both youth / young adults and adults with disabilities. The youth / young adult session allows our participants to improve both their social and motor skills and the adult session allows our youth participants to continue to grow with the program while welcoming new participants into the S.M.I.L.E. family.
With the continued support of Acadia University, our generous partners, and the community, the program will continue to grow and put smiles on the faces of many!