‘Sports create a sense of belonging’

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‘Sports create a sense of belonging’

Wednesday, 04 March 2020 | Dipak Natalie

The Special Olympics movement aims at providing an environment for intellectual disabilities of all ages to be part of an inclusive learning platform, says Dipak Natalie

Why is it important to create inclusion in India today?

Inclusion is the way forward, not only in India, but across the region and worldwide. In a multi-cultural and diverse country like India, an important member of the Asia Pacific region and global community - having inclusive and accepting mindsets towards people of all abilities creates a more understanding and caring society; which in turn builds a stronger, more united and resilient people. Meaningful exchanges and learnings among different groups in society helps all of us realise that we are more alike than different.

People with intellectual disabilities are able to achieve their full potential only when we create an inclusive environment where they feel accepted, cared for, and not judged for being who they are. All it takes is for each and every one of us to have the courage to reach out to them, interact with them and simply, be a friend.

The Special Olympics movement aims to provide such an environment. By allowing people with and without intellectual disabilities of all ages to play sport together; by letting young people of all abilities to co-create solutions for inclusion together; by getting healthcare professionals and the community to better understand the medical needs of people with intellectual disabilities; we are changing mindsets bit by bit and helping to sensitise communities in India and across the region to the needs of people of all abilities.

Is there a connection between sports, inclusion and education?

Sports is our engine, but inclusion is the ultimate vision of the movement. By allowing people with and without intellectual disabilities to play sport together on the same team, we foster mutual understanding, respect and friendships. Team sport builds a sense of belonging, and creates bonds beyond the sports field. Within a team, everyone has a specific role to play and is recognised and respected for that. Sports training also helps instill discipline.

When athletes are given the opportunity to achieve their best on the sporting arena, to represent their country and be celebrated on the global stage, it gives them an immense sense of accomplishment. The confidence gained often extends to other aspects of their lives, such as in the way they handle their jobs or their personal relationships.

What is the importance of unified sports in a student’s life?

With schools and colleges being the nurturing ground for the decision makers of tomorrow, unified sports plays a significant role in helping to foster inclusive mindsets among the young. It breaks down barriers and helps young people realise that with or without disabilities, they are not so different. By playing together, they build friendships that will hopefully develop into lifelong ones. It helps people of all abilities develop social and emotional skills together, creating an inclusive learning environment for all. With young people at the forefront of the inclusion movement, it is our hope that the next generation will be a unified one, eradicating inequality for people with intellectual disabilities.

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