PT ICDI 01I Can Do It You Can Do It program pairs UAB PT students and AIDB Helen Keller School studentsThe University of Alabama at Birmingham Department of Physical Therapy is the first in the state of Alabama to launch the national I Can Do It, You Can Do It (ICDI) program for health promotion for individuals with disabilities. The PT program, housed in the UAB School of Health Professions, has partnered with the President’s Council on Fitness, Sports and Nutrition per the recommendation and encouragement of the American Physical Therapy Association’s Student Assembly.

“We are one of the few schools in the country that are offering this program and we are really excited because we want to lead the way in getting more Physical Therapists interested in community health efforts,” said David Morris, Ph.D., interim chair, UAB Department of Physical Therapy. “We know everyone benefits from physical activity and making good nutrition choices but it’s particularly challenging for people with disabilities.”

WATCH: The I Can Do It, You Can Do It program changes lives

Thirty-seven students from the UAB Doctor of Physical Therapy program are working with more than a dozen students at the Alabama Institute for the Deaf and Blind’s Helen Keller School. The PT students are helping the AIDB students learn to enjoy physical activity and make healthier eating choices.

PT ICDI 03“This is an opportunity for us to empower youths with disabilities and teach them ways that they can take ownership of their physical activity, their nutrition, and we want to be the starting block for something they build on throughout their life,” said Fred Gilbert, second-year DPT student.“Plus, this is a good way for us to learn to commit to inclusion. So rather than building programs just for people with disabilities, we will incorporate people with disabilities into programs that already exist.”

“This is very important for these children,” said Dominique Forte, second-year DPT student. “Sometimes they believe that they might not be able to do something or they may not feel safe doing an activity. But we’re here to prove to them that you can do this. You can do anything that you want to do! We, as mentors, may have to slightly adjust the activity, but our mentees are capable of completing any activity that they want.”

SEE MORE: photos from the "I Can Do It" sessions are on the SHP Flickr page.

The ICDI program is a ten week course. Each week during that period, the UAB DPT students visit the AIDB Helen Keller School and work directly with their students. In addition to the nutrition aspect, they help the students with physical activities ranging from dancing for warm ups and playing chase for running. And they work with the students individually as well as in a group setting.

PT ICDI 04“A lot of times people see all these kids and they see different disabilities and they think well they can’t do anything together so we’re trying to teach them that this is a group; this is a community; and a disability is just another characteristic like hair color,” said Gilbert. “A disability is not something that should set you apart. A disability is something that everybody has and it is something that you get to learn from. Hopefully we’re teaching them how they can come together.”

“The thing that has been most impressive about this is the creativity and the enthusiasm that our students from UAB have been bringing to get the AIDB students engaged in the program,” said Morris. “We can talk about this in the classroom all the time, but it really takes getting out there in the real world and actually doing it to build the student’s confidence and to show that this effort really works to improve the health of the community.”

The ICDI program, part of the President’s Challenge Physical Activity and Fitness Awards Program, is in partnership with UAB through August 2016. The UAB PT department is ranked 19th in the nation according to the most recent U.S. News & World Report rankings.