Special Olympics and Assistive Technology
By Carmella Rynearson
On May 9, 2016, a sunny Monday morning, I had the privilege to attend the Area P Special Olympics, a day that highlights inclusion and abilities, rather than limitations. The event was held at Mount Pocono Middle School track and field and soon buses from surrounding school districts arrived carrying participants of various intellectual/physical/medical needs. Smiles of pride filled the field as well as the stands. The events began with a torchbearer leading the attendees around the field as the Olympics Theme rang out. EJ the DJ then broadcast participants' names and events over the loudspeaker throughout the day and music kept spirits engaged with songs like the Rocky theme song and We Are The Champions. Adaptive equipment including walkers/manual wheelchairs/power chairs/arm and leg braces/iPads/communication devices allowed participation in events many would consider only suited to able-bodied athletes.
I was particularly struck by the interplay between the spirit of each participant and the assistive technology that fostered participation. Two events from the day stuck out most in my mind. First, there was the wheelchair race that included both manual chairs, propelled by an adult or self-propelled, and self-directed power wheelchairs. The winning participant's mother joked that her son needed her to run fast since he was so happy to be selected for the event. Second, during the soft ball throw, my attention was focused on a young man in a power chair, who not only used his arm board for seating/positioning but also to support arm strength for his throws.
Learn more about Special Olympics Pennsylvania here.
The event brought the participants, and their friends, families, coaches, teachers, caregivers, and behavioral support personnel together as a community. Each participant received ribbons celebrating their skill, courage, sharing, and joy, and all those in attendance could feel the winning spirit.