[Editor’s Note: This is the first in a series of short interviews with some of the individuals who make a difference in the lives of children at Cedarcrest Center every day. We hope each interview provides readers with a greater understanding of Cedarcrest Center’s programs and services. Leo Echavarria is a physical education teacher at Jonathan M. Daniels School in Keene, New Hampshire, and teaches adaptive physical education at Cedarcrest Center as well. Jake Miller, a senior at Keene State College, interviewed Leo in late March 2014.]
Q: What does your work at Cedarcrest Center entail?
A: I work with a group of 15-20 children with physical challenges once a month. We do physical activities and play games such as bowling, basketball, knocking over objects with their wheelchairs, building Styrofoam pyramids and playing tic-tac-toe with bean bags.
Q: How is your work at Jonathan Daniels and at Cedarcrest intertwined?
A: I’ve taken some of the things we do at Jonathan Daniels and I adapt them to the children’s needs here at Cedarcrest.
Q: What are some of the challenges you face working with children who have physical and cognitive disabilities?
A: Their lack of mobility presents quite a challenge. They struggle to communicate as well. I don’t necessarily get any [verbal] feedback from them, rather than their caretakers.
Q: What is a usual class at Cedarcrest Center like for you?
A: My first year or so I would do a group activity. The last several weeks I’ve changed it a bit; I have stations of all different activities, and the children rotate on their own.
Q: How did you come to work at Cedarcrest Center? Are there special rewards for you in this type of work?
A: A couple of years ago, a few art, Phys Ed and other employees received an email asking if anyone would be interested in working with children over at Cedarcrest. My own two boys are on the autism spectrum and they receive outpatient services at Cedarcrest, so I thought this would be a great opportunity to give back to the organization.