As someone with a disability myself, and who also knows what it means to parent a child with multiple disabilities, I've become an advocate for my children on so many fronts, including their education. After all, when it comes to disability and inclusion, despite good intentions, many schools don't even know what they don't know.
The most marginalized groups across the world rely on this week to consistently reiterate that sport is so much more than kicking a ball, running a race, or scoring a basket. It is, for many Special Olympics athletes, the single opportunity to shed their labels and simply serve as a teammate, a position, an accepted part of the whole.
The Sound Shore Stars is a weekly Special Olympics training program. Comprised of athletes ranging from ages 22-46, the Dream Team trains to be the best they can be. One of these amazing athletes is the brother of one of the student producers of this video, Sara West. Her family has been involved in the Special Olympics for over two decades!
There was a local Special Olympics swim meet happening in my city, and I was asked if I would come and give out medals. I didn't know very much about Special Olympics except that it provided sport programs to people with intellectual disabilities. I reluctantly accepted the invitation. I could have never imagined how this single act would change my life forever.
The Special Olympics World Games will, for a short period of time, make disability visible. But we should not be persuaded that this is what inclusion looks like, and should continue to fight for greater participation by students with disabilities in our schools, communities, and even our sports leagues.
Special Olympics athletes were told that they would never amount to anything and their families were encouraged to institutionalize them. Their victory is not only the result of the same hard work that all athletes put in, but also the courage to overcome obstacles many athletes do not face and redefine what is possible.