Youths involved in Special Olympics Unified Sports® with some of the seminar participants in Nis, Serbia. Photo courtesy of Special Olympics Serbia
In many countries educators and coaches are challenged by the growing requirements and expectations of inclusion in the classroom and play ground not least because they lack an effective mechanism to foster inclusion. Special Olympics Unified Sports® has proven that its application can break down social barriers that keep youths with intellectual disabilities separate from their non-disabled peers.
Nowhere was the need to provide such a mechanism articulated so clearly than at a seminar organized 3-4 November 2012 in Nis, Serbia as part of the USAID-supported “Inclusion for All” project. Among the 31 seminar participants were representatives from all 24 of the city’s mainstream schools. Seminar topics included theoretical and practical training on how to develop Unified Sports, including observing boys and girls Unified basketball teams hit the court for a skills test demonstration.
“Your project gives us a means of solving a very important issue: how to create an inclusive community, said Mr. Nebojsa Stojanovic, a physical education teacher in one of the mainstream schools which has several integrated classrooms. Mr. Stojanovic said he has one student in his class, a girl with Down Syndrome, and was at a loss at how to include her with other students. “During the seminar we discussed the problems that come with inclusion but what is important is that Special Olympics has given us a good way to overcome these problems,” he said. “I will go back to my class and pass on all that I have learned here, and I will work very hard to involve as many pupils as possible in this project. It is the best!” he said.
The teacher’s words and enthusiasm are being reiterated throughout the series of seminars being held in Serbia and Montenegro to draw attention to the abilities and rights of persons with intellectual disabilities in local communities.
For his part, Mr. Stojanovic has become a fan of Unified Sports and attended the Special Olympics European Basketball Week event held in Nis at the beginning of December.