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Blog Posts By Special Olympics Project UNIFY
By Susie Doyens, Sargent Shriver Global Messenger
We’re continuing with our amazing stories from the new book, Stand Up! 75 Young Activists who Rock the World and How You Can, Too! from John Schlimm. You can read all about the book here.
I was born with Down syndrome. It is typical for people with Down syndrome to have intellectual disabilities and sort of look alike.
Most of my friends with Down syndrome are outgoing. They talk a lot and mix well with other people. I’m not naturally as outgoing or comfortable looking at other people or talking with them.
I have always been scared and shy. I used to never really talk. Ever. I wrote notes instead. People would talk to me and it made me feel panicky and uncomfortable. I never looked at people’s faces, only their shoes. I was afraid if I said something wrong, people would laugh at me. ...
Special Olympics youth and athlete leaders were recently featured in a new book called Stand Up! 75 Young Activists Who Rock the World and How You Can Too! from John Schlimm. You can read all about the full book here, but we also wanted to share some of the Special Olympics stories featured in the book. Stay tuned over the next few weeks to read these inspiring stories of youth changing the world through Special Olympics. And if you’re interested, you can purchase Stand Up! online.
Our first amazing story comes from youth leaders Danielle Liebl and Kaitlyn Smith… a story of true friendship! This is just a small preview, so make sure to check out the book for the full story.
The summer of 2010 is a summer that will always be remembered by the both of us. It was a summer of growth, new beginnings and cherished memories, but most importantly, it was the summer our lives intersected for the first time. That summer, Special Olympics hosted the 2010 National Youth Activation Summit in Omaha, Nebraska, which both of us attended.
Danielle was an intern while Kaitlyn participated as a Unified Partner with her friend Kathleen. We briefly met at the summit when Danielle went up to Kaitlyn’s Partner, Kathleen, to wish her a happy birthday. Little did we know that we had each just met a lifelong friend. Later that year, Kaitlyn joined Special Olympics’ National Youth Activation Committee, in which Danielle was already a member. At our first meeting in Washington, D.C., we instantly bonded over our uncontrollable laughter, similar sarcasm and sense of humor.
Our friendship was growing, and our friendship meant the world to the both of us. The comfort to be ourselves when we were around each other was proof that we were perfect friends. We never felt compelled to try to ...
By Haylie Bernacki, Specialist of Unified Sports School and College Growth, Special Olympics North America Project UNIFY
For years, a main initiative within Special Olympics Project UNIFY schools and State Programs has been the expansion of Unified Sports, which combines individuals with and without intellectual disabilities on the same team. It was inspired by a simple principle: training together and playing together is a quick path to friendship and understanding. Project UNIFY State Program staff are expanding relationships with state interscholastic associations to increase the credibility, reach, and depth of Unified Sports throughout school districts across the country. The hope is that every child will be able to play on a school sports team, regardless of their ability level. ...
By Brian Quinn, Manager of Youth Education & Unified Sports® for Special Olympics North America Project UNIFY
Take a quick moment to think back to your high school experience. I did this recently, reflecting on the upcoming school year, and it brought up some telling thoughts. Look away from this article and think for a moment about what you remember. If you are anything like me, your first thoughts were about specific experiences (positive or negative) and the people who influenced us. Not so much about tests, papers and homework.
A vivid memory that stays with me is when I got to play one-on-one basketball with Kenny, a student who had an intellectual disability. He happened to have an adapted physical education session which would sometimes take place adjacent to my general education PE class. As a freshman and sophomore, I had a difficult time socializing and was not excited about school. My grades were below average, and I lacked connectivity to my large school environment. In hindsight, I was a classic case in underachieving. ...
By Jared Niemeyer
Jared is a Special Olympics Athlete and a member of the Project UNIFY National Youth Activation Committee, and for him, friendship is a blessing that he’ll never take for granted.
Friends are people who care about you, respect you, really listen to you, are thoughtful and do nice things because they want to see you smile, but most of all – you are important to them because you matter! I have some really great friends!
As a Special Olympic athlete I have a lot of friends with intellectual or developmental disabilities. We love doing things together; we care about what happens to each other, we encourage each other and look out for each other. We are friends and enjoy doing things together! Special Olympics has given us the opportunity to experience a lot that some of us would never have had the chance to do. We also play Unified Sports, so many of our teammates are also Unified partners and don’t have disabilities; we are friends and have a lot of fun working and playing together. ...
By Clement Coulston and Kaitlyn Smith
Clement Coulston and Kaitlyn Smith are members of the Special Olympics Project UNIFY National Youth Activation Committee. They were recently asked to co-author one of the 11 Practice Briefs, focusing on School Climate and Inclusion.
Often times when society thinks of “valuable contributors” to issues, discussions and insights, the first image that appears in their mind is one of a well-educated and experienced adult; very rarely is that intuition one of a young person. Youth are constantly told and often led to believe that they are “the leaders of tomorrow,” but what about today? Youth are the ones in the schools, collaborating with educators, and hold the power to make a change. ...
By Andrea Cahn and Betty Edwards
When you see me, I want you to see that we are alike.
When you see me, I want you to see that I get nervous sometimes.
When you see me, I want you to see a happy dancer.
When you see me, I want you to see a football player.
When you see me, I want you to see someone who tries to be a good friend.
The statements above are from It’s Our School, Too, a play reflecting poignant quotes and perceptions of students who for far too long have felt excluded from the fabric of the school—those with intellectual disabilities. Written by Suzy Messerole and Aamera Siddiqui and commissioned by Special Olympics Project UNIFY®, It’s Our School, Too! is based upon interviews with youth from the Minneapolis/St. Paul metro area and members of Special Olympics Project Unify Youth Activation Committee. The play provides insight into the world of students with intellectual disabilities and the varying opportunities they have to be an integral part of the school.
Identified as a significant civil rights issue, social inclusion speaks to the needs of all youth to learn and live within an environment that recognizes their strengths and ...
By Betty Edwards, Chair of the Special Olympics Project UNIFY® National Education Leaders Network
The film “Cipher in the Snow,” a true story written in 1964 by teacher/guidance counselor Jean Mizer, tells the story of an ostracized teenager, Cliff, who has no friends and becomes a withdrawn "cipher" or nonentity. (Cipher is the mathematical notation for zero—something without weight, importance, or value.)
One day, Cliff asks to get off the school bus, collapses, and dies in the snow beside the road. Cliff’s math teacher is asked to write the obituary but realizes that hardly anyone recalls the student. When he tries to get a small group together to attend Cliff’s funeral, he can’t find 10 people who knew the student well enough to feel comfortable going. He vows to never let another student in his class feel unimportant and be unknown.
We wish we could say that this story could not be written today, but that’s not true. Many students in our schools feel insignificant, disengaged, and ...
The following blog post is from Samantha Huffman and was written in response to a recent article about a special needs student who was bound with duct tape during school.
Samantha is a former National Youth Activation Committee member and current senior, studying Elementary Education at Hanover College. Samantha has been a student leader in Project UNIFY for many years.
I recently went to a conference where a young man with cerebral palsy kept bringing up how we needed to focus on students with disabilities being tied down to chairs or restrained and/or harmed in some other way by educators. I kept thinking to myself how this wasn’t important because this would never be allowed to happen in a school in today’s society. I’m a senior Elementary Education major and never once in my four years of classes have we addressed the idea of restraining students because that’s just plain wrong, isn’t it? Well, apparently I was living in some kind of dream world and this young man at the conference was living in the real world. ...
This was written in collaboration with many Project UNIFY staff members.
Editor’s Note: This post is form our partners at the Special Olympics Project UNIFY. Each week in January, we will feature a new article on a topic related to the social inclusion of youth with intellectual disabilities. Through this effort, we hope to inform the public of the importance of such inclusion as well as offer educators and parents resources to implement it.
On Friday, January 25, 2013, the United States Department of Education (DOE) released new guidance to schools and school systems throughout the nation that receive federal aid about the requirements of providing quality sports opportunities for students with disabilities. While the guidance does not make new law, it does identify the responsibilities that schools and school systems have under section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act. The key messages in the new guidance could be summarized as the following: ...
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