Inclusion – It looks like this

I’m always very skeptical of the story “boy/girl with special needs allowed to do normal sports thing” stories. And if you don’t know what I mean, you don’t obsessively follow mainstream news about kids with disabilities! This might be a good thing for you.

I just feel that often these events become tokens of inclusion, not actual inclusion. They make people feel good when the “waterboy” with Down Syndrome scores a goal, and sure, it’s nice, but does it mean anything? Are these people going to work for inclusion more broadly, or is their work done? It veers heavily towards empty inspiration without depth.

So with skepticism, I set out to watch this video about a boy with special needs scoring a touchdown. By the end, I felt deeply moved and my eyes filled with tears.

I’m trying to articulate what’s different about this story for me. First, it was a surprise to everyone but the players, not a pre-scripted token act in which everyone was “in the know” except for the child with special needs. Often in these affairs the other team “lets” the person with disability score or shoot, and I don’t think that’s the case here. As Keith goes in to score, the team surrounds him and protects him. This is a real TD in a competative game … I think. If you have evidence to the contrary, well, I guess I want to know.

But really, it was watching the typical boy weep as he talked about how this event changed his way of thinking. You cannot watch this and think this event will lack for carryover for everyone involved, from Keith, his teammates, his parents, the community. This doesn’t feel like a one-shot token event, a moment of inspiration lost in a world of isolation.

This is what inclusion ought to look like.

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