Leveling The Playing Field—Through Play

Timothy P. Shriver is the Chairman of Special Olympics. Before joining Special Olympics, Shriver was a leading educator focused on the social and emotional factors in learning. He has worked in substance abuse prevention, violence, dropout prevention and teen pregnancy prevention. He created the New Haven Public Schools’ Social Development Project, now considered the leading school-based prevention effort in the United States, and co-founded the Collaborative for Academic, Social and Emotional Learning (CASEL), the leading research organization in the United States in the field of social and emotional learning. Shriver currently chairs CASEL.

  • Transcript


Question:  And how does sports contribute to the achievement of rights for children with disabilities?


Tim Shriver:  Well it's no secret that children love to play.  Play is the environment where the imagination is first tested and allowed to exercise itself.  Play is the environment where relationships are formed in young children.  Mothers and children play, make believe, create the world in which they grow up and learn, create safety, creates a sense of understanding, allows emotions to be understood and made safe for a child.


From the earliest of ages, it doesn't change much as children grow. The games change: hide-and-seek yields to football and football may yield to swimming, but they're the same lessons, the same questions, the same exuberance, the same desire to create a world where you can express yourself, where you can feel positive and powerful, where you can have a sense of relationships that allow you to sore.  That's what sports is for most children, but sadly not for children with intellectual disabilities for too many generations.  When it came time for the child with special needs to say, "I'm ready to play.  I want to test my skills, my body, my strength.  I want a chance to win.  I want to be involved in all the fun and excitement and exuberance of sports."  Too frequency people said, "No, I'm sorry.  Not for you.  You don't belong.  You don't have the gifts.  You can't contribute."


Sports, in our world, in the world of Special Olympics, is all about saying, "Yes.  Oh, yes you do.  Come into this world, we will give you your chance to shine.  We will tell the community around what you can do.  We will show your country that your time is now, your joy, your imagination, your vision belongs in this country, too."