Two weeks ago in partnership with the Holman’s Foundation, Special Olympics New Mexico hosted the first Albuquerque Public Schools Olympians For Autism Track Meet. Seven elementary schools participated in the unified event, which partnered 61 students on the autism spectrum with 61 of their regular education peers. They had been training together since February.
Having no “official duty” at the event, I stayed in the middle of the infield and for three hours – I watched and learned. I learned that the special education teachers who were there were quality people. I watched the participants interact and much of the time couldn’t really tell who was on the autism spectrum and who wasn’t. I witnessed a couple students have melt-downs and how their classmates came to their rescue. As is true in all Special Olympics competitions, I saw personal and emotional moments as medals were awarded to each participant.
Since that day I have read many articles on autism, and would like to share with you a little of one written by a Dad.
“If you have met one person with autism you have met one person with autism. For those on the spectrum like my son who are nonverbal, it is important to remember that love needs no words and finding a way to communicate with someone without using verbal language can be the most beautiful thing you’ve ever experienced. Making friends can be really difficult for someone who is autistic. Making just one friend can make all the difference in the world. Every person in the world wants and needs love and acceptance.”
I think we all would agree that having a friend who accepts us for who we are can make every day a better day. I saw such genuine acceptance in those kids who were at the track that day, I have spent every day since thinking about how with the help of more amazing teachers and visionary administrators, Special Olympics could potentially make those friendships happen in every school district in New Mexico. It’s how real change will happen.
Below is a slideshow with a few pictures from the day, but if you want to take a look at all of the photos that were taken, click HERE.