September 26, 2011

Is inclusion really a noun?

In the past, I have written entry after entry about Alex and her passion to play basketball, but her lack of play despite her participation in practices. This will be her fourth and final year on the team, and we are working to make sure it is successful.

We have spoken with the Colorado High School Sports Association and asked them to talk to the school about their support for students with disabilities on sports teams (JV). We have spoken with other local coaches and have heard the same thing, "Any student who goes to practice will play in each half”. We talked about Alex and basketball at her team meeting; we know this last year of high school basketball has to be her best.

One of the lessons I have tried to teach to the basketball coaches in the past is the lesson of inclusion and what this means to the “regular” players. To me, having a student with disabilities on a team teaches what true sportsmanship is like, how every player is important and makes a contribution. I believe this is a win-win for the team, and a chance to stand up as a school and show we are welcoming and inclusive. I am still teaching.

I was recently contacted by a TV show that is doing exactly that, Everyday Health. Following is an excerpt from their website.

Each week, co-hosts Laila Ali, Ethan Zohn, and Jenna Morasca bring you inspiring stories of people who have been affected by a health crisis and who are now "paying it forward," delivering a message of hope and healing to others with that condition. Whether it’s surprising a cheerleading squad for children with disabilities with an appearance from one of their celebrity idols, or coordinating a Flash Mob to raise awareness for cystic fibrosis, the Everyday Health team is there to make these dreams come true — and to celebrate the amazing strength of the human spirit. Everyday Health helps you feel good — and feel better — every day.

Their most recent show which was aired on Saturday was called “Real-life Glee” and can be viewed on-line. I highly recommend it.

As the mother of a high school daughter with down syndrome, I have to confess I know exactly what this show would be about, and it exceeded my expectations. This show is about not only an inclusive cheerleading squad and the peer mentors that make this successful, it is about a program called The Sparkle Effect. The following is from their website:

The Sparkle Effect is an innovative, student-run program that helps students across the country create cheerleading and dance teams that include students with disabilities. We provide everything that's needed, including our Quick Start Kit and peer mentoring. We also have grants available for uniforms and we provide free on-site training. Teams like the Sparkles are starting nationwide, so learn more and get started.

Every day I find or am sent something so positive and so hopeful that I am humbled. Inclusion and opportunity have always been my mantras, and to know that these simple nouns, while so difficult to understand, are becoming verbs truly humbles me.

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