These are terms we hear every day in the Special Needs Community.
There are blogs, books, videos, and movies, all preaching and pleading for inclusion of our Special Needs Loved Ones in the community at large.
But what about the other side of that coin? What about including those who don’t have Special Needs in the Special Needs Community?
I talk about Special Olympics here a lot. My son Matthew has a lot of fun at Special Olympics, he gets great exercise, he makes new friends, and he learns social skills. Special Olympics has been very good for him.
As a coach I have had an opportunity to get to know a lot of people with Special Needs. As you might expect, they want what everyone else wants. They want to be happy.
And happiness is sometimes hanging out with friends, cheering each other on and being recognized for their accomplishments.
Special Olympics makes them happy.
But what about those of us who volunteer? I can’t tell you how many times I have been thanked for volunteering my time, energy and effort to Special Olympics. That’s nice and I appreciate it very much.
Here’s the truth…
I’m the lucky one. I’m the one who is included.
And this kind of inclusion is truly special.
Special Olympics is an opportunity for those with Special Needs to invite us into their world.
And if you are willing to accept that invitation; that incredible gift, you will be transformed.
Every time I go to a Special Olympics practice or an event, or even just put together a video like the one below, I am transformed.
I am encouraged, I am inspired, I feel hope, I feel love, and I feel genuine and sincere inclusion. I am gifted inclusion into their world. Because it is indeed their world.
So for all the talk of awareness, acceptance and inclusion of People with Special Needs into the general community, the truth is that it’s a give-and-take. Yes, people with Special Needs should be included in the community at large. But when they open the door and invite me into their community I am included not because someone preached awareness or pleaded for acceptance but because I am truly welcome.
When we think of inclusion, we need to stop thinking about making some sort of accommodation. We need to stop thinking of it as a challenge. We need to stop thinking of it as a burden. We need to stop thinking of it as a goal.
Rather, we need follow the example of those with Special Needs and learn to include with grace and dignity, genuinely and willingly and not because it’s the politically correct thing to do.
If we can do that the world will be transformed.
If somehow you’re reading this and you have no experience with Special Needs Community, I encourage you to volunteer for Special Olympics not because of what you will give but because of what you will receive.
Trust me, you will receive. You will be transformed.