ERIC Number: EJ889363
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2008
Reference Count: 8
The Special Olympics: Sporting or Social Event?
Hughes, Carolyn; McDonald, Meghan L.
Research and Practice for Persons with Severe Disabilities (RPSD), v33 n3 p143-145 Fall 2008
Storey (2008), in his eloquent and timely critique of the Special Olympics and his call to close it down, focuses on the failure of the Special Olympics to achieve the goal of social integration and sustained social interaction among people with intellectual disabilities and their peers without a disability label. The authors wholeheartedly agree with Storey's condemnation of the perhaps unintended consequences of the Special Olympics, including: (1) fostering negative stereotypes of and infantilizing people with disabilities; (2) encouraging inappropriate behavior such as hugging, pitying, and paternalism; and (3) fostering attitudes of "us" versus "them" and service provider versus service recipient--all of which serve to hinder rather than promote social integration. Storey also argues that by diverting large amounts of charitable and federal funding, the Special Olympics further promotes segregation by limiting funds for integrated recreation and creating a dual recreational system. The authors contend that to make existing sports and recreational options more accommodating and integrated, disability awareness and training must become commonplace and widespread. Just as recreational staff routinely receive training on how to identify and to respond to incidences of child abuse, they should also consistently be provided with information on types of disabilities, behavior management strategies, and adaptive recreational programming. Public awareness should be provided in sports and recreational settings to inform participants that people of varying abilities are using the facilities and must be treated equally and with respect. Procedures should be in place for providing accommodations and assistance as needed for both people with disabilities and others who are using the recreational facilities with them. It should become customary for programming directors and instructors not only to accept but also to advocate to the public for integrated athletics and recreational activities. Marketing materials for recreational programs should convey a clear message of affirmative action and acceptance of people of all races, gender, religion, sexual orientation, and skill level. Parents need to know that their children with disabilities will be welcomed in recreational programs and not feel that they have to "hide" their children's disabilities to be accepted into a program. Actively promoting inclusion and accommodation serves the dual purpose of addressing the stigma often associated with a disability by the public as well as minimizing fear and feelings of intimidation that people with disabilities may have toward a recreational activity itself. Promoting inclusion creates a "can do" environment where everyone is invited to question her own perception of what it means to recreate.
Descriptors: Recreational Activities, Stereotypes, Child Abuse, Social Integration, Recreational Programs, Mental Retardation, Recreational Facilities, Interpersonal Relationship, Interaction, Athletics, Disabilities
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Publication Type: Journal Articles; Opinion Papers
Education Level: N/A
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