sports videos of special needs kids

Sports Videos of Special Needs Kids

Why are we so enamored with Sports Videos of Special Needs Kids?

Love That Max blogger Ellen Seidman recently wrote a post about whether it’s a good idea to Give Kids and Teens With Disabilities Special Sports Treatment. I have been watching the phenomenon of sports videos of special needs kids with increasing discomfort. My nine year old son has autism. Three years ago I registered Devlin for his first team sport, soccer. To give you an idea of how much Devlin has improved over three seasons of soccer, the first several practices he refused to step on the field, let alone kick a ball. At the conclusion of his third season in soccer this year, Devlin runs on the field and looks like any other player. Dev still refuses to participate on occasion if there are already players on the field upon arrival and sporadically runs off the field during games for a hug break “to give mom some loving”.

Kids on the spectrum don’t necessarily value the same things typical kids do

Those of us with special needs kids count our victories differently from other parents. Whereas some parents lament that their son missed a pass he should have made, we are grateful Devlin is running the same direction as his teammates toward the correct goal. This doesn’t make those parents petty or ungrateful any more than it makes me heroic or worthy. It’s just not the same. And I am always mindful that many special needs kids can’t speak or run, let alone play on a team. Devlin is one of the lucky ones. He can “pass” for typical, for a few minutes at least, or from a distance. A few weeks ago, Devlin played goalie and stopped the opposing team’s ball from entering the goal. His coaches were ebullient. As luck would have it, my husband and I were out of town and missed the game. I don’t know if Devlin made the play on his own or whether it was “assisted”. And really, it didn’t matter to me, because the pride on Devlin’s face when we talked about it made my heart burst.

A variation of the special needs sports videos: good samaritans

A few months back Miss Minnesota got high praise for “being willing” to take a teenager with cerebral palsy to Prom and even got permission from her boyfriend to do so. Did anyone tell her special needs date, Charlie, that it wasn’t a “real” date? Then enter the spate of “feel good” stories of orchestrated sports moments for special needs kids. In both of these scenarios, the circumstances aren’t real. These artificial moments, as well-intentioned as they may seem, serve to further highlight the special needs child’s differences. I suppose there is some comfort that some of these kids may not ever know that the entire experience was orchestrated for them like a real-life Truman Show moment.

Are the good samaritans taking the special needs child into consideration when they put these children in the spotlight, or are they making assumptions? Is making a goal really important to the special needs child or is it what neuro-typical people think he should want? Devlin would be mortified if folks made a big deal out him doing something that other people do as a matter of course. Creating a circumstance to make yourself feel good isn’t a bad thing. Hell, let’s spread as much happiness about as we can, but the heart of this trend feels like pity. Look! I helped a mentally challenged person! I didn’t try to trip him walking down the hall or anything! We can all feel better about ourselves because we pretended the boy with cerebral palsy could really score a goal. But we all know he couldn’t. It is a farce. A benign farce in isolation, but a farce nonetheless.

Thank you Katy Perry: Night of Too Many Stars

I cried tears of joy watching the video of Katy Perry singing “Firework” at The Night of Too Many Stars with Jodi DiPiazza who has autism. As a human being, I’m grateful people with special needs are no longer in the shadows. What made this extremely cool was that Jodi was actually singing with Katy Perry. No one pretended she was doing something she wasn’t really doing, and it kicked ass. People watching that video felt envy, not pity. They felt good for Jodi, not for themselves.

Let’s celebrate the folks that treat human beings with special needs like human beings each and every day. They don’t wait for Devlin to perform a herculean feat he’s incapable of doing without a studio of actors. I’m talking about the patient folks that wait a little longer in the lunch line because my son is paralyzed by all the choices. The beautiful kid who passes the soccer ball to my son because the coach taught the team that all players get the ball, regardless of whether it’s highly likely Dev will kick the ball out of bounds. The children who look at Devlin like he’s, I don’t know… Devlin.


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  1. Ellen Seidman

    AMAZINGLY said. Particularly love the line “Like a real-life Truman show” and your point about Katy Perry singing with Jodi DiPiazza being an inclusive moment. Today, I got a bunch more Google alerts about kids with special needs getting to make football touchdowns. This is a serious trend. And couldn’t agree more about it being a pity thing.

    1. Jennifer McCoy

      I really appreciated reading your article. I have cringed every time I saw one of these sports videos but couldn’t quite put my finger on it until I read your blog entry. It smacks of a circus. Please keep in touch!

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