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Special-est Olympics

Simon bowling at the Special Olympics Tournament, December 1, 2012
Simon bowling at the Special Olympics Tournament, December 1, 2012

So…the Special Olympics Bowling Tournament came and went – and I did get a call back on the Thursday before from the woman in question from the local group.  She partially back-tracked and partially denied what she had said in the email.

She held firm to the idea that some athletes may be asked to stop bowling but clarified that this applied to those who were a danger to themselves or others, citing that in years past, there had been incidents of some athletes throwing bowling balls at each other.  Fair enough.  And she did specify that they’d still receive a participation ribbon; they’d just be removed from the actual bowling, which is not what it sounded like in the original email where it said that they would be asked to leave.

However, she also stated that students who were disruptive shouldn’t be there – that they
“weren’t ready” for the tournament and would distract the other athletes.  So while it would be okay that Simon would talk repetitively with his “tv talk” as well call it (echolalia), if he yelled, then he might be asked to stop playing.  And she said that she never wrote anything about some kids not belonging there – and I didn’t have the email in front of me to quote it back to her because she had called me while I was out at lunch.  And she never really made me feel good about her original comment about the looseness of the term “intolerable behavior.”

Still, the tournament itself went well for us.  Simon brought home the gold for his lane, and he had a good time until the end when he had to wait.  I’m sure he had some “intolerable behaviors” then, but no one talked to us about it or seemed to be paying any attention to it.

But…I managed to hear gossip while I was there.  And I have no idea of its veracity, especially since it is gossip, but it concerned me nonetheless.  I was told that the local Special Olympics rep was a great person but that she might have had a grudge against our coach due to some late paperwork and that someone (it wasn’t clear who, exactly) might have suggested that one of the older athletes who liked to hop and move around a lot was unwelcome at the tournament.  Are the rumors true?  I don’t know.  But they are disturbing, and because of that, I do hope they are false because it would be very upsetting to think that personal vendettas and intolerance of disabilities was ruining an experience for kids who would really benefit from it.

Hopefully there will be no confusion or fighting next year.  I’d hate to have to call a dozen numbers again, trying to look for fairness and equality at an event that is meant to be just that, fair and equitable.

Simon awarded the Gold Medal for his lane, Special Olympics Bowling Tournament, December 1, 2012
Simon awarded the Gold Medal for his lane, Special Olympics Bowling Tournament, December 1, 2012

 

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Special Olympics, but only for those who aren’t too “special”…

Simon can’t believe that he got his medal in the 2011 Special Olympics Bowling Tournament!

So I have another rant to go on…

I received a copy of an email that was sent to a school employee (and thus is public under the information act, which is why I’m sharing it here…):

It is a requirement that athletes are able to remain in the pit and bowl when directed to bowl. We will have volunteers there to assist them in scorekeeping and staying in bowling order but they will not be expected to hold athletes are keep them under control. We will need to utilize our volunteers and coaches & staff will not be permitted to sit and hold athletes in the pit area either. This will be your decision if those particular athletes are capable of competing or not. You should be working on this concept with them prior to the event at all your practices and you will know if they are ready by December 1st. It’s not fair to the athletes that are competing if they are consistently disrupted by athletes that shouldn’t be there if they are having problems on that particular day. You can always inform the athletes and parents that they are welcome to come and participate but when their behavior becomes intolerable that they will be asked to leave. If they know this coming in, it won’t come as a surprise.

The person who sent this email is the current head of the Gulf Coast Special Olympics (Area 22).

Personally, I’m horrified at the concept of being told that my son’s behavior is intolerable at an event known for including all. Furthermore, research I’ve done for the Special Olympics bowling rules don’t seem to imply that a coach cannot be in the pit and cannot hold my son; the rules do not allow them to help him bowl, but there is no mention of not being allowed to sit on someone’s lap in between bowling or not being allowed to get a hug from one of the coaches.

I have been trying to reach someone, and so far, no one has been able to help. I left messages before Thanksgiving, but got no response. Today I was able to reach someone at the state level, and she suggested I try to reach the person here in the Gulf Coast again and send an email…

So I did…

And here’s that email:
I am very concerned about the information I received from our coach, Mr. Greg Mitchell.

My son, Simon, has been participating in Special Olympics Bowling for 2 years; he has received both a bronze and a silver. However, I am now afraid he will be “asked to leave” if his “behavior becomes intolerable.” Can you please define for me what “intolerable behavior” is and why the rules seem to have changed from past years? When he was 8 and when he was 9, he was allowed to have a coach in the pit to help keep him on task and hold him, when needed. The coach did not help him bowl in any way; she was merely there to help alleviate his anxiety and help with his focus. Both of these issues are typical for children with autism, and I am worried that the rule to keep coaches away will mean that less children with these issues will be able to reach their potential, as per the Special Olympics statement:
“Emanating from the mission, the ultimate goal of Special Olympics is to help persons with intellectual disabilities participate as productive and respected members of society at large, by offering them a fair opportunity to develop and demonstrate their skills and talents through sports training and competition, and by increasing the public’s awareness of their capabilities and needs. The Founding Principles support this goal by emphasizing that people with intellectual disabilities can enjoy, learn and benefit from participation in individual and team sports, underpinned by consistent training and by competition opportunities for all levels of ability. According to the Principles, Special Olympics must transcend all boundaries of race, gender, religion, national origin, geography, and political philosophy. They also state that every person with an intellectual disability should have the opportunity to participate and be challenged to achieve their full potential, with the focus at community level to reach the greatest number of athletes, strengthen their families and create an environment of equality, respect and acceptance.”

I have tried to reach you by phone, but your voice mail box is full, and I have not been able to hear back from anyone else at the office. I would greatly appreciate knowing more before Saturday morning as my son will not understand it if he is asked to leave for behavior that someone else finds intolerable.

Now, I’m going to see if I hear back…in the meantime, just for some light reading, here are some links to the statements made by the Special Olympics that seems to imply that my son should be welcomed instead of found “intolerable.”

Special Olympics: Mission, Goal, and Founding Principles

Special Olympics: Official General Rules

So let’s see how this plays out. You’ll see a happy or sad posting after the tournament. Good luck to us, and to all who feel the need to fight for fairness and equality against closed minds.