Reflections on the Special Olympics

Today my son competed in his first Special Olympics. I admit, I was trepidatious. I know my son is on the Autism spectrum, which is considered a disability. And I know the Special Olympics are for kids with disabilities. Still, my son is physically perfectly normal (albeit on the small side). I couldn’t help but feel that he shouldn’t be at the Special Olympics. I kind of felt bad about it.

Boy was I wrong. The Special Olympics are a great place for kids like mine! Half the kids there are just like him: from outward appearances perfectly normal and healthy. But, just like my son, dealing with social interactions and competition is completely foreign to them and very challenging.

Everything is set up in such a way that kids can feel successful, even if they don’t win their heat. There is some competition, for sure. Kids are actually racing each other, or trying to out-throw one another. But there’s basically no way a kid can place worse than fifth. And they always get a ribbon. They can lose the race, without really losing.

And the support from everyone else who was there was fantastic. It took me about five minutes to realize that every person there was either ‘special needs’ themselves, or knew exactly how to deal with special needs people. For once, the boy was ordinary, just like everyone else. There were no funny looks and sideward glances. There were high-fives from anyone who noticed the ribbon tucked in his shirt. It was moving.

Because I am who I am, I took a few pictures. I thought I might share them with you:

The Opening Ceremonies. The athletes and coaches from the boy's school.

The Opening Ceremonies. The athletes and coaches from the boy’s school.

I just loved this guy!

I just loved this guy!

The Pal-Mac marching band accompanied the parade.

The Pal-Mac marching band accompanied the parade.

A third grader from Palmyra-Macedon schools. She really belted out the Star Spangled Banner.

A third grader from Palmyra-Macedon schools. She really belted out the Star Spangled Banner.

Getting instructions from the starter for the 50m dash. Look at the boy's intensity.

Getting instructions from the starter for the 50m dash. Look at the boy’s intensity.

The 50m dash! The boy reminds me of me at that age.

The 50m dash! The boy reminds me of me at that age.

A little ball-tossing during the lunch break. Future quarterback maybe?

A little ball-tossing during the lunch break. Future quarterback maybe?

Catching the ball at lunch.

Catching the ball at lunch.

Winding up for the softball throw.

Winding up for the softball throw.

Evan wanted a photo with his ribbon. This young man stepped into the picture with him. The camaraderie was excellent among the athletes!

Evan wanted a photo with his ribbon. This young man stepped into the picture with him. The camaraderie was excellent among the athletes!

Overall, the boy won third in his 50m heat, and second in his heat of the softball throw. He has his sights set on some blue ribbons next year!

6 thoughts on “Reflections on the Special Olympics

  1. Great piece! Love how happy the boy looks. Love your perspective. Yay!

  2. This is great. I used to volunteer for the (adult) Special Olympics several years back–it was always a really nice (and fun) day or the athletes and volunteers alike!

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