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April 11, 2016 | North America: Wisconsin

Finding Your Place In The World

By Marta Newhart

A child's bedroom says a lot about the child -- but it doesn't say everything.

My two kids shared a room when they were younger. The bunk bed took up most of the room, but they each had a corner of their own. In my daughter Miquela's corner were several shelves lined with trophies, medals and sporting awards. In my son Frankie's corner were toys, preschool word books and a Dodger's baseball cap. It wasn't hard to tell that my daughter competed in sports and my son did not.

Some might have even picked up on the fact that my son is developmentally delayed. Along with different interests, different personalities and different aspirations -- Miquela and Frankie also have had vastly different opportunities available to them.

Frankie would often look at the trophies and marvel at how great his sister was -- that she could earn them and excel in so many types of competitions. As a parent, it's a great feeling to see your son or daughter find a place in the world. And it's just as painful to watch your child struggle to find that place.

Most kids are involved in sports of one kind or another. Whether we realize it or not, society puts a lot of emphasis on athletic accomplishments, and it can be difficult for children who are unable to participate. The stark reality is that for children and adults with intellectual disabilities, the world of competitive sports is almost always closed off.

That's the beauty and blessing of Special Olympics. One of the things that Special Olympics does is fill that gap for those who don't have a pathway to compete.

Through the power of sports, Special Olympics helps people with intellectual disabilities feel welcome and valued in their communities -- developing a profound belief in themselves and their self-worth. The mission of Special Olympics is to provide year-round sports training and athletic competition in a variety of Olympic-type sports for children and adults with intellectual disabilities.

They are offered continuing opportunities to develop physical fitness, demonstrate courage, experience joy and share their skills with friends, family and fellow athletes from around the world. In short, Special Olympics helps awaken a world of dignity for every human being.

So people like Frankie can have their own sense of accomplishment -- their own trophies to put on shelves. Their own place in the world.

About Marta Newhart: Mother of a child with intellectual disabilities (ID) and a child without ID
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