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A Guest Blog Presented by: Special Olympics of New Mexico
The start of a school year has a wonderful feel to it. Kids, for the most part, are happy to be back with friends, engage in fun activities, and learn new things. They take pride in being Rockets, Wildcats, Cougars, and Mustangs. They are happy to be back where they belong.
Sadly, those things aren’t exactly true for all students. There are many who dread the thought of what the year will bring. They will sit in cafeterias and eat their lunches alone. They will walk the halls and endure stares, teasing, and dreadful name calling. They will not be invited or included. They will leave each day knowing they are different and because of that difference, the school will never really feel like their school.
Studies have shown that only one out of ten regular education students admit to even having a friend with special needs. Over 60% of parents in the United States have said that they would rather not have special education students in their kids’ classrooms. Laws have forced the issue and teachers do their best, but the reality is – no one is really talking about the elephant in the room, and school administrators continue to struggle to find ways to celebrate all of their students and make each one feel valued.
Special Olympics is changing attitudes and behaviors one student at a time through our Unified Champion Schools. These schools give their students with and without disabilities the chance to play sports together during the school day. We are seeing young people themselves create climates of acceptance and inclusion. High fives are happening in the hall ways, special education students are being invited to eat lunch with their regular education peers, and true friendships are being formed. By playing together, regular education students are experiencing first-hand the challenges that disabilities bring, and they are figuring out ways to help work through them. We expect to see more significant change in years to come in ways not seen today. We are seeing first-hand that when students can play together – students can live together in a way that celebrates everyone. Considering the climate of our schools today – considering the climate of our world today – learning this lesson is more important than ever.
We appreciate that Blue Cross is working with us to change hearts and minds towards people with intellectual disabilities. Thanks for the 2016 Healthy Kids, Health Families grant to help make this happen!
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