Over the course of the past week, nearly 7,000 athletes from around the world met in Los Angeles for the Special Olympics World Games to compete on a world stage and show just what they were capable of. There were so many inspiring stories that came out of this week about athletes from all over the world and highlighted the accomplishments of so many. These games were broadcasting a strong message to the world what those with intellectual disabilities are capable of with their themes of inclusion and respect. I am so thankful to ESPN who broadcasted these games and helped spread these messages by showing that although people with intellectual disabilities have challenges, they are people that want the same things we all want...to be respected and included. I urge you to go to ESPN SportsCenter's website to the Special Olympics page and check out the videos and articles that you will find about many athletes that participated in these games from around the world. I am so proud to say that Colin and Chris were a part of the videos "You are the Stars" and "Smile" created by ESPN which also helped to spread those very important messages. Check out athletes like Chevi, and Jackie who have overcome significant challenges to get where they are at today.
Coinciding with the beginning of the World Games last weekend was an example of inclusion right here in our own community. Last fall, we decided to enroll Colin in Karate knowing that just the basics of this art (respect, discipline, self confidence, self defense, physical fitness) are attributes that could make a positive impact on anyone's life.
After speaking with one of the instructors about Colin, we brought him in for a tour and a lesson and quickly realized that this could be something really good for Colin. He started with private lessons for several months and then slowly transitioned into the group classes.
Watching Colin in those classes is like watching any other child participating. He follows directions, he copies what the instructors demonstrate, he has fun, and then also has occasional bouts of silliness or not doing exactly what he's supposed to. When that happens, he is treated like the other kids and gets himself going again.
On the very same day as the opening ceremonies to the World Games, Colin earned his full yellow belt by taking the test along with the other students who were testing for a belt. During testing, the students have to demonstrate specific skills for that level for the instructors and afterwards, are awarded the belt in a group ceremony.
It's hard to describe to you the emotions that ran through Chris and I that day from nervousness to pure happiness after watching him receive his belt. Watching him gives us this sense of pride for accomplishing something and continuing to work towards his goals.
Inclusion simply means that you are accepted for who you are and what you CAN do. The instructors at Paul Prendergast Karate have treated Colin like they do any other student and have defined inclusion for accepting him and making him a valuable member of their class. When challenges have cropped up (not that there have been many), they talk with us about things they can do to help Colin and have made adjustments if needed to allow him to be successful. Because they have set that example, the rest of the students follow their lead and treat Colin just like they would their other peers. They support him and cheer for him and help him to be the best that he can.
We are so proud of Colin for continuing to work hard and make such progress in Karate. He is showing us and his community what he is capable of.
Inclusion looks like...