That is the slogan on the Special Olympics Blog site. What a great sentiment: Unity, coming together as one, working for a common goal. It seem so obvious, why is it so difficult?
We are new to Special Olympics. We have had limited interactions, Sean helped with physicals for a few years in Florida when the kids where little, but Dev has never competed, and we have not volunteered recently. We have always trended towards an inclusive reality, and Dev has been able to participate.
For the most part we just signed her up, continuing with the “ask for forgiveness rather than permission” philosophy. Pre-school- elementary soccer, softball, dance, gymnastic, basketball, swimming… You name it, Dev was on a team and loved it. As parents we helped coach or supplied snacks. The other parents and coaches were always encouraging, the teammates played and enjoyed too, Unified to win the games/scores/play.
Moving in to middle school things became harder, as skills progressed. The middle school in Michigan had a “no cut” policy for some sports, so those are the ones she played. Her early experiences and abilities gave her skills to be included. She played on the B teams for middle school basketball, and swam. She also joined a rock climbing club, what a great sport! In Seattle she also played on basketball team (#14) and enjoyed gymnastics classes.
If we could find a convenient climbing gym, I think she would still be climbing
High school, as many of you know, she has been cheer leading. First she joined a cheer team specifically for kids with disabilities. It was a wonderful experience and Dev learned a lot of cheering skills, but also learned she liked inclusive teams. So when she made the high school team for her sophomore year she was thrilled! She has learned more cheers and dances than I ever thought she would be able too. Recently a friend mentioned the Unified Soccer Team at Hale. The teams have equal numbers of players with and with out intellectual disabilities.
Through the years, the coaches and the teammates have learned a lot too, not to pre-judge or underestimate. Teams work when everyone is working together for a common goal. Each member of the team has a role, some are big some are small, but they rely on each other. I hope that is the direction the Special Olympics are going with their Unified Team approach.
In life our lives are tied to each other. We can build each other up or tear each other down, but we are connected. We learn from ALL of those around us, how we treat others is how we will be treated. “We all live with the objective of being happy; our lives are all different and yet the same” (Ann Frank). Together, unified, we can make the world a better place.