When We All “Adapt,” We All Win!

March 22nd, 2015 | By Marjie No Comments

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Usually, we use the “Adaptive MOVES” feature to talk about the latest technology, equipment, or activity being used to enable persons with disabilities to play sports and participate in recreational activities. This issue, though, we want to focus on how the readers of MOVE might be able to adapt so that we can support friends, classmates, teammates, and others who have disabilities.

Physical and intellectual disabilities do sometimes alter the way people can participate in activities. However, such disabilities do not prevent participation. I have an 11-year-old friend, Noah, who has been blind since birth. He snow skis, rides horses, plays baseball, sings in a choir, plays piano, goes lobster fishing, and more. The list of activities Noah participates in is lengthier than that of most people with typical abilities! He doesn’t share a horse with anyone. No one helps him hold or swing a bat. He skis on his own skis, unassisted. He hauls up the lobster traps without physical assistance.

Noah does all these things because the people in his life – his family, friends, teachers, coaches, and others – have never told him he can’t … they find creative, effective ways of working with Noah so that he CAN.

Noah shouldn’t be the exception. All people with disabilities should have the opportunity to participate fully in life, just as those of us with typical abilities do. So … how can we help those with disabilities be part of athletics, music, debate, playground, school, and other activities? Here are few ways WE can adapt OUR behavior and attitudes:

Recognize “different abilities” rather than seeing “disabilities” in people. For instance, Noah snow skis using verbal cues from a partner skier, but he skis without hands-on assistance. He rides horses with a partner rider in front of him wearing a bell so he can use audial clues for movement. In other words, Noah does things differently than I do (and better than I do), but he is not disabled from doing them!

Ask when (not “if”) someone wants to go with you to the playground, park, or sporting event. Often, people with different abilities aren’t even invited to fun activities, parties, or athletic events simply others assume that if they cannot participate in a typical way, they are not interested. Usually, they would love to take part, but they’re often not invited!

Ask your school, neighborhood, and community to make their playgrounds, recreational facilities, and sporting venues accessible for people of all levels of ability. Take a parent with you and try walking around your school playground with your eyes closed, or with one arm tied behind your back, or while using crutches. You will learn very quickly what the challenges are for people with different abilities. Then go to the people in charge and say, “We need to adapt our facilities so everyone can use them.”

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