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What we can learn from people with intellectual disabilities and Special Olympics

Thursday, December 26, 2019

My son is intellectually disabled. I read an article in the Washington Post today written by Timothy Shriver (chairman of Special Olympics) that I really liked. Let me share an excerpt with you.

"""" First, have faith, not necessarily in a particular religion or creed but in the goodness within every person. Choose to believe that everyone has something valuable and beautiful to offer. A deeply felt faith in the goodness within each person was the first step in healing the vicious prejudices against people with intellectual disabilities. People who believed in them refused to accept the judgments of those who didn’t.

Second, meet the person you have excluded. Look for common ground. In Special Olympics, ours is the playing field, where we laugh and cheer and compete. There are winners and losers at our games, but the real action is in our hearts, where fears are being overcome, barriers are disappearing, and, most importantly, common humanity is being revealed and relationships of respect are launched.

Third, celebrate gifts. In Special Olympics, we give medals to competitors at all ability levels when they enter the arena and give their best. Rather than emphasizing a contrast between strengths and weaknesses, our medal stands are places where we showcase the wide variety of human gifts.

Fourth and last, with hearts opened and relationships begun, start the work of trying to live with the inevitable pain and tension of life from a place of truth and love. There is no “them” and “us.” There is just “us.” Everyone belongs. We are each vulnerable, starving for connection and searching for a way to be of service to each other. We solve problems best when we solve them together.

...Maybe it’s time to listen to the healers instead of the dividers. Fifty-one years after the founding of Special Olympics, the work goes on. In schools and gyms and playing fields all over this country, young people are joining the movement and choosing to play, and live, unified. Athletes with intellectual differences are no longer victims: They’re leading and teaching us all how to create a more just and trusting future. It’s time the country listened.""""
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