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Thursday, May 03, 2012

Social/Sports Inclusion

It seems almost par for the course now to see headlines about a teenager with Down syndrome being named their school's prom king or queen. I've noticed these headlines since Kayla was born ... so for almost nine years now. I'm sure it made the news even before Kayla was born. But after so many years does it still have to be newsworthy that someone with Down syndrome was voted prom king or queen? Isn't it acceptable now that it happens often enough that a big deal doesn't have to be made about it?

And then there are the news stories about the high school football or basketball player, who has Down syndrome, and scores a touchdown or makes a basket.

The most recent one I've read is about David Andrews. His mother asked the coach if her son could be a part of the team, but never expected him to even practice with the team. He started practicing with them and they realized he was good. He could shoot. He shoots 40% from the three-point line.

So in a game where they were substantially ahead, his coach put him in. He made his baskets, the crowds went wild. So from then on "team had a new goal of getting so far ahead of the other team, that David would have an opportunity to play some minutes.”

I have to ask, why did the team have to be 'so far ahead' in order for David to have an opportunity to 'play some minutes'?

The article does say he even started one game ... so in that case he didn't have to wait for his team to be up by a large margin to play. But in this article it says 'he won a spot as a starter.' I'm not sure if that's referring to the one game he started or if it meant he was a starter on the team. Which, written that way, is different than saying he was able to start one game.

These are meant to be feel-good stories, but I wonder what life is like for these teens outside of school. The ones who are voted king/queen, who are allowed to score a TD, or get in a basketball game, when the score doesn't matter any more. Classmates who are interviewed always have such positive things to say about their teammate with Down syndrome, or why they voted so-and-so with Down syndrome as the king/queen. But ... do they really include them outside of these events? If they think highly enough of them to vote them for king/queen do they call them up and hang out with them on the weekends? Because sometimes, what I get from the articles, is that it's like giving them a consolation prize for this game called life. Oh you have Down syndrome so we'll vote you prom queen to have this one shining moment! Of course I hope that isn't what is happening. And I don't want to feel negative about these stories, because it could be worse. There was a time when students with Down syndrome and other disabilities weren't even allowed in the schools. So I don't mean to discredit the positives about these stories.

Generally I don't link to stories with headlines about someone with Down syndrome being voted king/queen, or being somewhat included on their school's sports team.

But a story I read earlier this week was a little different. It is about a middle school girl, who has Down syndrome, and was participating in a youth track meet. She participated just like all the other participants.

She was the slowest runner in her group, bringing up the rear in the 200-meter race.

There was a group of kids waiting, but not really paying a lot of attention, to this race. They saw the first 6 runners go by. Then, they noticed the 7th runner. What I like the most about what those kids did next - their reaction - was that it was spontaneous. Done by themselves. Not an adult nearby to 'lead by example.' Instead, it was the kids who lead by example. Cheering someone on. Recognizing this runner was giving her all. Recognizing that we all need encouragement. Even last place.

Here is the follow-up article with more information about this runner, and the reactions from the first article.

You know, Kayla loves to run. I can totally seeing her participating in events like this. Running her heart out. And being excited that she finished the race, that she won.

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I Just Love You said...

"Because sometimes, what I get from the articles, is that it's like giving them a consolation prize for this game called life." this is how i feel exactly.

Not a Perfect Mom said...

Brooke's PT was over a couple of weeks ago and told me she was at the movies a few days earlier and there was a group of 13 year old girls going to see something...and in their midst was a girl with DS.
And she could tell she wasn't there out of pity or because she's someones sister...she was dressed in trendy clothes, had her phone out, and was just hanging with her girlfriends on a Friday night...

Katie Driscoll said...

OH I loved this post! Your words are so true! Hey I am a 37 year old runner and I will never win a race! I am so ok with that too! Finishing is all that matters because there are alot of people who would not even enter the race! Thank you for this! I can not even wait to see what my Gracie will be interested in!!! OXOXO Katie

ckbrylliant said...

Someone in a recent post said something about peer mentors in school treated our kids like puppies "oh aren't they so cute, and so nice" giving them candy as rewards for answers in class....in HIGH SCHOOL. I love this thoughtful post. I have never believed in labels and superlatives and that will not change when it comes to Bridgie. I love real, honest, raw emotions not guarded, guided, and staged emotions.

Kinda why I like you ;)

Alison said...

Oh, this post was great. I'll just echo the other commenters here--I agree with you completely. The "consolation prize" notion puts it perfectly.

Melissa said...

I never share these kind of stories either. Like you said, it always feels like a consolation prize or a handout.