I do not remember watching cartoons on weekends, nor watching TV after school. My husband, Antuan, says I didn’t have a childhood because I don’t know of any cartoons he speaks of.

Truth is, I was always outside running around, riding a bike, bouncing a basketball, throwing a football, hitting a volleyball or cheering for my older brother at his sporting events.

Playing a sport or participating in an extracurricular activity was my only option. I grew up in an athletic household and that was the rule set by my parents. I’m glad they forced my brother and me to be involved.

Being on a team taught me how to follow, lead, work with different personalities, communicate with others, be humble and, most importantly, learn from my failures.

I highly encourage all of my students to play a sport. When the weather permits, I usually take them outside to play a game or race.

It’s so easy to incorporate their speech goals into a game. If the students are working on producing the g sound, then everyone has to tell each other "good job" with a high-five and smile.

If the students are working on language skills, then they have to state what happened in complete sentences. For example, a student will say, “I threw the ball to Billy and he caught it.” In just this one sentence, the student used irregular past tense verbs, pronouns and a conjoiner.

The students do not even realize they are "working" because they are so caught up in the fun. They’re outside releasing energy, gaining sunlight, and speaking to each other.  They’re learning so much more than by reading a book, writing on worksheets or playing board games. I’m not saying those are all useless forms of teaching - that is definitely not the case - but a sport incorporates what a student learns into one fun activity.

I know most students with disabilities are discouraged from playing on their school team, but that should not be the case. We need to encourage these students to be involved someway, somehow. If the student does not make the team, encourage him or her to be the manager.

If the student refuses to be involved with the school team, then encourage the student to play with a team within the community at the recreational sports complexes.

On Thursday I attended an orientation for the Killeen ISD Special Olympics Track and Field. I also signed up to be a coach. If you know a child with special needs, I highly encourage you to get that child involved. Imagine all the fun the child will experience and all the knowledge the child will gain.

If you are interested in volunteering or becoming a Special Olympics coach, please check out the Special Olympics Texas website for more information.

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