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Brooklyn High School for Students With Special Needs Puts Focus on Fitness

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It's no secret that a lot of kids could stand to get up and exercise more, and that's especially true for kids with special needs who don't get a lot of physical education, which is why one Brooklyn high school put a focus on fitness. NY1's Lindsey Christ filed the following report.

All year, the students at P.S. 373 have been working on working out. On Friday, they celebrated with even more running, jumping and racing. 

"It's good to get outside and move around," said one student.

P.S. 373 serves students with cognitive or emotional disabilities, like autism.

"One of the things that we were concerned about is, working with a population of students with profound disabilities, they really just don't get to go out and experience the outdoors and have a lot of physical fitness," said Courtney Rattenbury, administrator at P.S. 373.

So the staff decided that this year, in addition to therapy and academics, the school would focus on health. 

"We want the students to be able to communicate what it means to be healthy and what physical fitness can do for their bodies," Rattenbury said. "Some of our students are non-verbal, so that might simply mean pointing to a picture of a healthier choice, an apple as opposed to potato chips.

Other students are able to articulate exactly what they've learned.

"I was a kid that liked to eat junk food, but then one teacher told me that it's not good, and then I started eating healthy a little," said one student. "Then I got more healthy. I joined a gym now and I work out now."

Teachers set a goal that every student would run or walk 30 miles over the course of the year. They've kept track of it, and celebrated progress along the way, using the New York Road Runners school fitness program, Mighty Milers. 

"The whole concept of walking or running 30 miles at times can be abstract to them, so to make it more tangible and keep them on track and focused, what we do is on a monthly basis, have them compete for medals, for t-shirts," said Owen McCormack, a physical education teacher at P.S. 373.

It's something students say they love.

"When I get older, it reminds me what I did in the past when I was young," said one student. "'Oh, I was a good runner. I got an award for that. I was a kid that liked to work out.'"

The Mighty Milers program is free for the nearly 400 city schools and community centers that participate. This year, New York Road Runners said 80,000 city kids collectively logged more than 2 million miles, several thousand of which came from the kids at P.S. 373.

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