By SOPHIA COLITTI Contributing Writer Oct 13, 2021 1
Photo Yomi Karade, back left, a certified personal trainer, works with clients, including her son, Kofi, back right.
CALDWELL – Caldwell resident Yomi Karade’s publication, Special Needs Fitness Magazine, launches Monday, Oct. 18.
The magazine will be the first of its kind, encapsulating the importance of fitness and healthy living for people with special needs and disabilities.
Karade embodies a certain expertise and a holistic approach. As a mother of a son with disabilities, an ACE certified personal trainer, a vendor with the New Jersey Division of Developmental Disabilities and creator of inclusive fitness programs at Embracing Fitness in Little Falls, she has dedicated her life to this initiative.
“I think it’s just so important that the special-needs community does not get shunned because what is there out there and what magazine is out there that is really dedicated to them and their fitness? As far as I know, there is not one. This is the first one,” she said.
The magazine aims to amplify the voices of her clients and their stories. It also will cover their families, their doctors, people who have been in rehabilitation, support coordination companies, nonprofits, businesses for people with special needs and will provide information about exercise, corrective specialists, chiropractors, psychologists and mental health specialists.
“I knew in 2019 I was going to put this publication together. The vision has slightly changed because I’ve met so many mothers and fathers who have been even more sheltered and now we’re out here we need to be known, our stories need to be told,” Karade said.
She hopes to spark conversation about the word “inclusive” and to correct false narratives.
“Everyone has this whole thing about inclusion, and I think they’ve got it a little bit wrong. Inclusion doesn’t mean that you’re going to dump a bunch of children with special needs in with everyone in society and be done with it. Inclusive means ‘If I can get that, then you should be able to get that.’ The same opportunities are given so the same results are achieved. It’s an individual purpose and direction.”
Karade, who is originally from England, has a background in publishing and recruitment. She earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology and a master’s in special education.
When she was exposed to group homes, she realized that there was an alarming gap in health and wellness knowledge that needed to be bridged in the special-needs community.
“I was working as a behavioral specialist, but I was starting to realize that when I was in the group homes for the over-21, it is a very sedentary environment. And I was like, ‘What the heck is going on here. Why aren’t these people moving?’ “
She taught Zumba at a gym and set up programs for adults and children with special needs on her own. Her inclusive fitness programs caught the eye of Autism Speaks, an advocacy organization that provided a grant to fund her initiative.
In 2019, Karade built her client base beyond the special-needs community. She now conducts in-home, online and satellite gym training. People from all backgrounds call her for personal training, group fitness training, cardio kickboxing, Zumba and strength endurance.
She also plans to launch an inclusive fitness program online Oct. 18 via the fitness platform www.legitfit.com.
Classes will include strength training, seated strength training, Zumba, Zumba kids. endurance training, meditation and relaxation, cardio kickboxing, and core strengthening.
Karade is looking for an online option for the visually impaired.
“Within my whole program that I do, I always base it around the person and try to see where they’re coming from and try to engage with what they’re really about, what do they like or don’t like. It’s beyond fitness and I use that information to bring that into the programs for anybody.”
Karade has clients who are blind or have cerebral palsy, autism, ADHD, sensory disorders, brain injuries, high blood pressure, diabetes and anxiety or who are physically disabled or obese.
She hopes that the magazine will show the importance of health. The articles deal with weight issues, diabetes, high blood pressure and posture problems.
“I’ve seen clients who have lowered their medication, their blood pressure has gone back to normal. That’s the whole goal. A lot of my programs are very strength-core resistance-based and cardio-based, and just in that bracket, it hits on a lot of the chronic diseases you can prevent and normalize.”
Son With Special Needs
Karade has personal insight into the special-needs community through her son, Kofi, who had autism, albinism, a visual impairment and many food allergies.
“It’s about having the background to be able to work with people of special needs and autism,” she said, referring to her experience. ““As a parent with a child with special needs, you need to see what you’re going to do with them. Because the doors are not necessarily open for everybody even for just the basic stuff.”
She described Kofi as a Zumba enthusiast, and she is in awe of his physical capabilities.
“He likes Zumba, like maybe too much. He has physical therapy at school and he’s really good, he’s shown me some things. He’s planking on the ball and I’m like, ‘I didn’t know you could do this.’
“He can balance on the BOSU (ball). I remember in a group session he and another client they were standing on the BOSU doing bicycles over the weighted bar and doing shoulder presses with the weighted bar, which a lot of people can’t do. The students tend to have a good sense of balance, and I find that all of the students could balance on the BOSU in ways the teachers can’t.”
Karade also trains non-verbal clients and does not believe in limits to what they can achieve.
“We have the relationship where we know what we want out of each other. I’ve never seen any of it as a barrier. They do make my day. They always smile and bring something to the plate. So many of my clients do things that I can’t do.”
The impact that fitness has on her clients’ lives has proven to be life-changing for all parties involved.
“I don’t set a bar. I don’t do anything differently, everything is very intense with my sessions. and I don’t treat anyone differently, as such. I go from where they are and they enjoy it because I push them to their capacity and beyond.
“Sometimes they get annoyed with me and then the next time they go to do it they can, and I’ve seen some incredible changes like bodily changes and I’ve seen some mental health changes, confidence. Some want to drive, some have gone off to college, some go off to set up businesses. This goes beyond fitness,” she said.
Karade tailor her training to her clients.
“I follow the rhythm of my clients. If I see they need to be pushed a little bit, they might get a little bit more. If I see they’re fatigued with me, break it up. I know when to push them and when do hold back by their face.
“I think there has to be a time where you have to know that client to be able to do that. I focus on the heart of them rather than just focusing on reps. I find what motivates them and intrinsically they motivate themselves.”
Her initiatives are fueled by passion.
“Everyone should be given opportunities to have a good life for their health and wellness and fitness. Really, your health is your wealth. Once you’ve got that, it’s a very good life.”