Watching the Paralympics With Kids Creates An Inclusive Society

The Paralympics in Tokyo are currently underway and we are so excited to watch them with kids! It's a time when we can all cheer on the athletes together, as they show us what is possible. But it's also a great opportunity for kids to learn about different abilities. What are some of the challenges that people with disabilities face? How do people overcome these obstacles? Watching the Paralympics not only creates an inclusive society but helps promote acceptance in schools and communities. 

Different cultures understand and accept individuals with disabilities (varying abilities due to the nature of physical or intellectual impairment), in distinct ways, often subject to countries and regions of the world. Watching the Paralympics can help shape these conversations with kids. 

Sport is an avenue and often is referred to an arena of life, which serves to educate and unite all and it is one of the most instrumental pursuits that an individual or group of people, as a team can engage in to develop ways to learn, not only skills of self -improvement, self-confidence and self- regulation, but how these skills extend into a team, collaborative environment. The definition of physical literacy includes establishing the competence, confidence, and motivation of an individual to engage in a sport or physical activity. Within that broader scope, also is the notion that individuals strive towards a common goal, or goals and that they have the agency (independence) to choose a skill to engage in, and/ or game to learn to play and compete in (Kuippus, 2017)

History of the Paralympics

The notion of coming together and being recognized as athletes, not separated from those whom do not have visible or other types of congenital or acquired impairment, was born out of Doctor Ludwig Guttmann’s founding of the Paralympics which took place in 1948. Doctor Guttmann was a physician, researcher, and spinal cord surgeon who saw it as imperative for patients who had spinal cord injuries and other physical disabilities, to consistently move, assisted or independently, to learn new movements and re-learn patterns that
were lost due to an injury or impairment in order to challenge the body and mind to new paradigms. His vision of the Paralympics was to have a competitive series of sporting games which existed alongside the Olympics, or “parallel to.” This is where the name Paralympics comes from.

His founding vision, perspective, and principles, coincide with poignant values of today’s society where an event like the Paralympics, formulates opportunities for education, societal acceptance, defining of the human spirit encountering adversity and emerging stronger and more resilient through engaging in sport.

Why Watch With Kids?

Sport is a unique avenue that teaches, nurtures, strengthens, opens and showcases humility in some of the most innovative and revolutionary ways. Why is it unique? Because on the one hand, every sport is conventional with rules to it and structure which call on an individual to perform and his, her, their, highest level to win. But the other dimension allows for the total assumption of a unique perspective and physical embodiment of being able to do something that is individualized to every person.

Understanding the founding principles and historic triumphs of the Paralympics and watching them, allows for lessons of sport beyond skill and spectacle to be transcended. Through exposure to it and immersion in its 28 sports; 22 of which occur in Summer and 6 in Winter, including badminton, tennis, basketball, and wheelchair track racing, children learn invaluable life lessons of belonging and inclusion, cooperation, and training hard to reach a goal for example, as well as overcoming adversity and the value of trying to learn as many different physical literacy skills. 

Others such as the general public, sport policy leaders and other sport
and fitness professionals, educators and those in governance, for example, learn about ways that sport and physical literacy redefines possibility and the growth of greater human potential.The Paralympics history and legacy, athletic commitment and the values that it both carries and transcends, should be amplified and encouraged to have a larger viewership to teach and reinforce values of humility, the human spirit of an athlete who is like any other person who must rise from failure, passion and dedication captured by a sport and its teaching, human dignity, acceptance and cooperation with one another.

As a society, we should be consistently driven to explore social constructs and ways that industries are perceived and governed and challenge them to create new ideas and practical frameworks for establishing and harnessing potential.

Sport allows for this. Let’s all watch the Paralympics which are currently on, and cheer for the athletes who have made sacrifices to be able to compete right now especially during the COVID Pandemic.

This post was written by 
Jess Silver
Founder, Flex for Access

Kuippis, Florian. Inclusion in sport. Disability and Participation. 2016. August 30.

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