This weekend we attended a fun family event organized by the Special Olympics committee in central Florida. They had free physicals, lots of games, a magic show, and delicious snacks.
To my surprise, Amin did so well on the physical. He followed directions from the nurse and the doctor. They screened his vision and he passed it with flying colors. Even the doctor was amazed at how well he did in that test.
While we were waiting for our turn, something truly amazing happened. (If you are not a parent of an autistic child, or not a professional dealing with autistic child, you might not understand the source of my happiness).
Amin started to get a bit annoyed by a very short waiting period, and from transitioning from one room to another. There was this older boy waiting for his turn before us to see the physician for his physical. He came up to Amin and offered to play with him with a balloon. I got concerned that he might hit Michael (that was the name of this boy) out of frustration. To my amazement he had a big smile on his face right away and started playing with him immediately, forgot about waiting and the unfamiliar environment. Michael was so nice, he left the balloon with him while he was being seen by the doctor, but he whispered to me “please don’t let him pop my balloon”.
I have never seen Amin being social like this before, and it brought tears into my eyes. This was truly a big step for him.
“The mission of Special Olympics Florida is to provide year-round sports training and competition in a variety of Olympic-type sports for people with intellectual disabilities who wish to participate, giving them continuing opportunities to develop physical fitness, demonstrate courage, experience joy and participate in the sharing of gifts, skills, and friendship with their families, other Special Olympics athletes, and the community.
The ultimate objective of Special Olympics Florida is to help people with intellectual disabilities participate as productive and respected members of society at large, by offering them a fair opportunity to develop and demonstrate their skills and talents through sports training and competition, and by increasing the publics awareness of their capabilities and needs.”
Through Special Olympics, kids and adults with intellectual disabilities who were once ignored, neglected, or institutionalized, and hidden from society, have a chance to gain respect and acceptance.
Furthermore, Special Olympics has helped these children and adults to develop self-esteem, to have their health improved markedly, and to learn and refine social skills. They make life-long friends, and strengthen family ties as well. Participation allows these individuals to have a better chance to become more productive in society later in life.
Moreover, Special Olympics families gain a sense of belonging, where they are not just accepted, but respected and understood. They were able to create valuable access to networking with other families who have some of the same questions and issues in life like them. They are able to compare notes and exchange valuable life experiences that can help and give support to everyone. The benefits of Special Olympics have been proven worldwide. We were glad to have a chance to share in the experience as well.