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Tim Shriver

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[…]
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Tim Shriver: rnWell in the last 20 years there have been great changes for people withrnintellectual disabilities.  Manyrncountries have passed laws that opened schools to children with intellectualrndisabilities.  It's hard tornbelieve, but just a few generations ago, a few decades ago, many children withrndisabilities were never allowed to go to school.  Schools would tell parents no, there is no place in thisrnschool for your child.

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So schools have opened up. rnIn some places, employers have begun to see a person with anrnintellectual disability as someone who can contribute, someone who will be arnloyal worker, someone who will be a reliable worker, someone who will helprncreate a positive environment at work. rnSo employers have begun the long process of opening their doors ofrnopportunity to people with intellectual disabilities.

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And healthcare institutions have begun to study the various formsrnof intellectual disability and begun to respond with new kinds of treatments,rnnew kinds of interventions, new kinds of therapies that not only help preventrnthose forms of intellectual disability that are preventable, but also, and maybernmore importantly, add to the quality of life of those who have an intellectualrndisability and want to contribute.

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So changes have been positive in most countries.  Do we still have work to do?  Alas.  Yes.  All thernpositive changes in employment, in healthcare, community living, education, arernstill unfortunately isolated examples. rnMost children with intellectual disabilities never go to school.  More than 90 percent never have arnjob.  Almost all of them never havernreal friends.  Very few still everrnget to play on a sports team, ever get to join a community organization, everrnget to stand up in front of a crowd and say, "Look what I've done.  Look how well I've done.  Give me a chance at a medal.  Give me a chance at a cup.  Give me a chance at success."  That experience is still tragically thernrarest of experiences in the lives of people with intellectual disabilities andrntheir families.

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Our job is to change that.

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Tim Shriver: rnWell the biggest barrier facing people with intellectual disabilities inrnalmost every country in the world is fear and misunderstanding, negativernattitudes.  People still believernthat a child with an intellectual disability is somehow lesser.  So they say to parents, "Oh, I'mrnsorry you have such a child." rnThey say to the child, either in words or non-verbally, "I'm sornsorry that you're having to live such a tragic life."  It couldn't be in many respects arnfurther thing from the truth, but that bias translates into a lack ofrnhealthcare because people think why bother giving healthcare to these children.

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It translates into a lack of special educators because peoplernthink why bother with special education, we have to train and educate otherrnkids.  It translates into a lack ofrnemployment opportunities because people think why bother hiring this person,rnthey're never contribute anything. rn

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The biggest barrier is the negative attitude.  The result of negative attitudes, ourrnwhole systems, whole social structures that too frequently say to a child withrnintellectual disability, "You are not welcome."  Our job is to reverse those negativernattitudes and create communities that say, "You are welcome.  Show me what you can do.  You can contribute to the life of thisrncommunity, to the life of this country."

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Topic: rnArticle 23 of the CRC.

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Tim Shriver: rnWell I think the CRC [Convention on the Rights of the Child] isrnsufficient as far as it goes.  It'srna piece of paper.  It's arndocument.  It's a governmentrndocument.  The reason question isrnnot is the wording right, the real question is the implementation right.  Where are the people?  Where are the armies of citizens whornwill take the challenge of the CRC and make it come to life.  The real urgency of now is not to havernsignatures on the bottom of the page, but to have people in communities who arerndoing the work of overturning the attitudes and ensuring that the rights of thernchild with an intellectual disability are protected.

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Where are the teachers who will understand that the CRC is anrninvitation to them to open their classrooms.  Where are the principles and the educators who will see inrnthe CRC a challenge to them to make sure their school has special educators andrnother resources.  Where are thernmayors and the chiefs and the local officials who will say the CRC is arnchallenge to my community to become an icon of acceptance, to become the placernwhere people want to visit to see what it means to be inclusive.  This army -- where are thernparents?  The young people?  The religious leaders?  The civic leaders, who themselvesrnthrough every little fiber of the community can begin to weave in that there isrna place for the person with special needs.  In my church, in my synagogue, in my temple, in my school,rnin my institution, in my place of work, in my work, on my playground, in myrnpark.

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When that happens, the CRC [Convention on the Rights of thernChild] will no longer be on paper, it will have come to life.  That will be the measure of its successrnand the moment of celebration. 

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Question: rnAnd how does sports contribute to the achievement of rights for childrenrnwith disabilities?

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

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

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Sports, in our world, in the world of Special Olympics, is allrnabout saying, "Yes.  Oh, yesrnyou do.  Come into this world, wernwill give you your chance to shine. rnWe will tell the community around what you can do.  We will show your country that yourrntime is now, your joy, your imagination, your vision belongs in this country,rntoo."

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