No Fear - Just friendship
Worried that you are not quite ready to Meet The Determined? Special Olympics athletes say that they just want to be treated with respect and as equals. Here’s how to make sure you do just that and make some new friends at the Games…
“Athletes with disabilities are just like everyone else, they just want to be treated fairly and respectfully.”
It can be the case that people without intellectual disabilities are unsure of how to interact with those who have intellectual disabilities. They become uncomfortable, or possibly even scared, of what they don’t understand. They may worry that they’ll say or do something wrong and offend or hurt the feelings of the person they’re speaking with. These concerns may cause people to avoid interacting with people with disabilities altogether.
This however, is a terrible shame, as lifelong friendships and bonds are often formed between people of varying abilities and skill levels.
Breaking down barriers
The Special Olympics movement seeks to break down the barriers that keep people of all abilities from getting to know one another and becoming friends. To accomplish this, its programs focus on the strengths that people with disabilities possess. The determination of the athletes will be on full display all across various Special Olympics competitions next week, emphasizing the many skills the competitors have mastered. We can all empathize with the effort required to overcome challenges that are set before us. The determination that is required to learn new activities is something that can be found in all of us.
But what if you are going to be working, interacting or playing with a person with intellectual disabilities and are unsure of how to behave?
How to offer support
People are often unsure of how to behave towards people with intellectual disabilities or how to support them. One technique we should all learn to employ is that if you aren’t sure, go right to the source. Ask the individuals themselves!
When Special Olympics athletes were asked how it’s best for others to interact with them, many responders answered simply, “just get to know me!”
One athlete requested that people, “treat me like an adult, not like a young kid.” Another asked that people, “talk to me and not my mom” while another competitor stated, “I can speak for myself”.
The basic gist of interacting with someone with a disability is simply, treat them how you would wish to be treated. They are just like the rest of us, they just want to be treated with respect.
Hunter, a community leader and advocate for people with intellectual disabilities, summed it up: “[It’s important] interacting with people without disabilities, so they can become more accepting of us and embrace us rather than be afraid of us. Social inclusion is the unity of people with and without disabilities. See that we aren’t that much different. Adaptations don’t define us, we define us. People with disabilities are people, just like everyone else.”
The casual interactions that result from inclusive sports programs allow all the participants to get to know each other without letting their differences get in the way. They just simply develop friendships that come from shared activity.
Bottom line, how do you interact with someone who has intellectual disabilities? That’s easy! Treat them like you would anyone else. Give them the respect and dignity we all deserve, and all want. Don’t be afraid to talk with people with disabilities, you may make some great, lifelong friends.
And now is the perfect chance to make some amazing friends from all over the world when you come along and cheer on the athletes at the Special Olympics World Games Abu Dhabi 2019. What do you say? Are you ready to meet the determined?
If you are, head to MeetTheDetermined.com to find out more.