Life for my daughter, Kate made a huge step toward independence when her high school gave her a spot on her high school track team. At at time when there was less mainstreaming for the intellectually disabled, her being a part of the track team was a real accomplishment. What do intellectually disabled students learn for taking part in athletics in school? They learn to work as part of a team, a necessity for them after graduation when they'll have to work with people on the job, and not just intellectually challenged people. They also learn they CAN DO.
Too often the intellectually challenged or students with other disabilities are emotionally segregated. Not made to feel like they are part of the rest of their school or school activities. Emotional segregation, you see, is not against the law. Emotional segregation 'just happens.' Schools don't do it, in fact some schools encourage students of all capabilities to take part. What makes the difference in whether 'emotional segregation' occurs is the attitude on the student level.
How can we prevent emotional segregation? Part of the reason emotional segregation occurs is ignorance. The students in regular ed don't really know anyone in special ed. Not REALLY. Oh they may have them in one of their classes, or in lunch, or gym, but they don't hang out together. Not in school, not after school, not in school activities.
How can we make this change? The first thing we need to do is educate the teachers who are either coaching or supervising after school activities to encourage all the students to work together. Not just the college prep kids hanging out together, not just one racial group hanging out together, no, everyone working together, hanging out together. (Yeah, I know, there's a more up to date term for it, but...)
My daughter's track coaches were great, so were her team mates. They made her part of every part of team sports. She practiced as hard, ran as hard, picked up hurdles after meets, went to parties with the rest of the team. And I suspect they encouraged the leaders on the team to make her a big part of the team.
What Kate learned in track was invaluable. It made her feel she could conquer the world. Live on her own. Do it herself. It made her proud of her accomplishments.
So thank you John Grube and the rest of the track coaches. If you ever wonder if you've changed someones life, you have. Kate's. Thank you all.