Sunday, August 12, 2012

Lessons to Learn From the Olympics; An Important Message for Policymakers

I was recently contacted on Facebook by a long time colleague, Dr. Monica Roache, to help out with the local chapter of CEC. Dr. Roache is a Speech & Language Pathologist, she is currently an adjunct professor in the Graduate School of Education and Human Development at the George Washington University, and  also the Assistant Principal of Gunston Middle School, Arlington County Public Schools. I admire her persistence to expand CEC's work to Washington DC so that our educators, parents and professionals in our field can also avail of the advantages of being a member. Without hesitation I promised to help her out. Please do not be surprised when you receive an email from me, I hope you will read and reflect on what changes in special education policies are needed to help maximize the potential of our exceptional needs students. We need your teacher voice, there's power in number.
The Council for Exceptional Children works to improve public policy affecting children and youth with disabilities and gifts and talents, their parents, and the professionals who work with them, at all levels of government. This link on their Facebook page is for our policymakers, I am reposting it here on my blog:

Here at CEC, we have been captivated by the Olympics – the dedication, talent, and hard work of the athletes has been awe inspiring. But it has been some of the remarkable stories of individuals who have reminded us that our focus should be on one’s ability, not disability.
We couldn’t miss this opportunity to highlight a few Olympic stars:
  • South Korea’s Im Dong-hyun, the 26-year-old archer who is legally blind and broke the world record in the 72 arrow event, which he had previously set in Turkey. Only able to see blurred colors and lines, reports indicate Im has only 10 percent of vision in his left eye and 20 percent in his right.
  • 23-year-old Natalia Partyka from Poland was born without her right hand and forearm but has been competing in table tennis in London. She struck gold during the 2008 Paralympics and has ranked number 68 in the world. See more here.
  • When Oscar Pistorius, the double amputee track star from South Africa participated in the opening ceremonies, the crowd erupted! At 25, Pistorius made Olympic history when he advanced to the 400-meter semifinals earlier this week. Read an interview with Pistorius here.
Though the Olympics will conclude this Sunday, special education advocates can carry on the messages of the games throughout the rest of August. Congress has left Washington, DC to head back to their home states. During this time, members of Congress will hold town hall meetings, schedule one-on-one meetings, and attend community events to better connect with constituents (see related story here). 
What better way to illustrate to policymakers that a shift in thinking must occur in special education than by highlighting the accomplishments of these athletes? As Oscar Pistorius states, “You're not disabled by the disabilities you have, you are able by the abilities you have.”

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