Recently the Obama administration ordered school districts to give disabled students equal opportunities in sports. It is a sad thing that districts have to be ordered to do this — shouldn’t it just happen?
I am happy to say that when my son, Matthew, who is developmentally delayed, attended Atascadero High School, he was given equal opportunity in sports without anyone being “ordered” to.
The cross-country coaches, Mark Anderson, Jerry Tamelier and Dave Donati, all accepted him onto the squad and encouraged his participation. Mark Anderson also worked with him as the distance coach on the track team. All athletes are given equal opportunity here in Atascadero; I have seen the same openness in the Paso Robles school district.
Matthew has continued to run, quite successfully. He participates in half marathons, 10Ks and 5Ks. He was a participant in last year’s San Luis Obispo Triathlon.
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I am happy to say that the running community in this county, in this state and around the country at various events we have attended has proved to be open and accommodating to our needs — no one has ever suggested that he not participate.
The key word is “participation” — you don’t have to win, you just have to show up. I encourage all athletes of all levels and skills to “show up.”
Special Olympics provides one venue, but it is not an inclusive venue. To parents and athletes with disabilities, I say, “Step out of your comfort zone.”
Here in this county, they do not need “orders” — all athletes are welcome to participate, for which Matthew and his family say thank you!