Seeing the Ability in Disability

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A few times a year, Special Education students get to compete in a loving and safe environment at Special Olympics competitions. These activities are designed to help them reach their full potential, no matter their disability. With the help of school districts, parents, and fellow classmates, these students are able to have fun and accomplish great things!

Special Olympics is a great opportunity for both general and special education students to come together and co-learn. Everyone is able to root for each other, and the positive environment is so motivational to all in attendance.

“Being a buddy gives the PALS an opportunity to impact lives through sports,” senior Helayna Barber said. “Honestly, however, the athletes impact our lives more!”

The PALS leadership class is a group of students in the high school that helps kids from each campus; many of them get the enriching experience to be a buddy for these competitions.  Barber is heavily involved with Special Education students on campus, and was one of the buddies during the basketball competition at Scurry-Rosser this past week. Buddies are to cheer on, lift up, assist, and love their assigned participant. They form a special bond as they complete the tasks, eat lunch, and have fun with each other.

“I would like everyone to know that Special Olympics is incredibly important to our students,” high school Life Skills Teacher Amy Wales said. “They train for these events. They love winning medals so when one of our students comes to show you their medal please take the time to acknowledge it because that means the world to them.”

The Life Skills students practice for weeks prior to the events on the rules, coordination, and tasks to be accomplished. There is a lot of excitement for these events from everyone involved, so the competitions are so upbeat and inspiring to be at. These athletic events give special education students a chance to experience some friendly competition and the feeling of winning a medal. Everyone wins at Special Olympics, which adds to the spirit of love surrounding the games.

“I love the atmosphere created by the Athletes who participate in Special Olympics competitions because it a positive environment where they can showcase their individual athletic abilities,” middle school Life Skills Teacher Jennifer Hallam said. “When you walk into a Special Olympics event, no matter what the sport, you leave with an overwhelming sense of joy and love.”

It is a neat experience to be in the presence of such kindness and acceptance. At general education sporting events, there can be a lot of hurtful words exchanged, a lot of challenging, and a lot of disrespect, but here there is no jealousy, no contention, and no negativity. Everyone is happy to be there and eager to participate. The smiles are infectious, and add to the spirit of joy surrounding the competitions.

“THEY ARE ATHLETES,” Hallam said. “So instead of seeing them for they disability, value and cherish them for all their abilities. I encourage and challenge anyone who has not volunteered for a Special Olympics event, to go do it. It will change your life by changing your heart.”

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