On April 15, 2013 I attended an event at my high school in Tiverton. As two students senior projects, they put together a unified basketball game. The unified teams already existed, and our school has always been very supportive of them. A unified basketball team for those of you who don't know, is a team composed of "typical students" along with those who have a disability. They play together as a team against other teams from different schools. This particular game was even more special than the others.
Their goal for this game was to fill the stands. They were incredibly successful and it was an amazing experience to be a part of. The amount of support that these teams got was incredible. While the teams are from "rival" towns, it did not matter; each team got the same amount of praise as the other. The photo to the left shows just one of the four bleachers of that size, which were also filled. Admission was free and the first 250 to come got a free t-shirt that said "Unified Starts With You". These two senior applied for a grant to Special Olympics Rhode Island and received a grant for these t-shirts to promote "unified high school sports".
Kliewer's article was one that I was able to connect this event to the most. Kliewer's main point was to not let students with a disability be silenced and segregated from the rest of the school. They have just as much of a right as the other students to learn in a typical classroom. The more that students with disabilities are integrated into schools, the less "different" they will seem to other students who have never met or interacted with someone with a disability. This unified team is a way to involve those students with disabilities with typical students to play a sport that everyone can enjoy. This particular event was a great way for the high school and community as a whole to show their support for this team. Kliewer would have approved of this event, the students are able to interact and gain experience in the community and not have to feel different anymore. This game had more people in it than any other sporting event at this school. Which just goes to show how SCWAMMP is becoming less relevant and the community accepts those who are different. There was chanting and singing and cheering, and it was such an uplifting experience. This allowed the students with disabilities to show everyone that they are much more than disabled. They are incredible people, smart, athletic, friendly, and they fit in with the rest of the school.
There act of inclusion are just what these kids need as well as the community. It was amazing to see this community brought together to support the unified basketball game. This event also reminded me of the video we watched in class called "Ir a la Escuela". This video talked about the struggles that those with disabilities have with advocating for themselves, and being able to get integrated into the "regular" classrooms. It also reminded me of a particular part where they were speaking about how their special education department had own hallway and no one went down it. They were segregated from the rest of the school, and this event shows have integration is beneficial. It also showed how many people were supportive of it from filling the stands completely. It also supports the point that was made in the movie that community involvement is almost or even more important than a strictly academic education. By making this opportunity available and gaining this much support, just goes to show the importance of integration. It might take some work, because some of the member of the team needed a little extra help, but it is worth it for them to be a part of the community and have the support they need to stay involved.
There was even a gold medal winning Olympic athlete that attended. Michelle Kwan was taking pictures in the stands, and tweeted about it. Tiverton is not a very well known school; people normally think Tiverton is just a street. The fact that a celebrity came and supported this team was an amazing thing, making it even more special.
I really hope that things like this are happening at more schools to raise awareness and advocate for the unification of schools every, not just a team. It is so much bigger than that. During this even, connections from article we have read were going through my head, and not just because it's a requirement, but because these issues we have been discussing in FNED are extremely relevant to our daily lives. This event was even put in the Newport Daily News. This was overall an incredible experience, and a great event. It was so amazing to see the amount of support and enthusiasm that was coming from this high school gym for this unified basketball game!!
- Here's a link to the Special Olympics Unified Sports page!
- Here is just one more link to 92 proFM page, the Tiverton Unified team was able to talk on the radio because they got Team of the Week!
- This is just a short video that explains what Unified sports are!