With schools across Virginia returning to learn in different ways, students may feel more isolated and lonely. Many schools have canceled or deprioritized co-curricular activities such as student organizations and sports. For students with intellectual disabilities, while isolation and loneliness at school often are the norm, there will be even fewer opportunities for afterschool activities and friendships outside of school. All of these activities, however, create critical opportunities for students to develop social emotional learning skills, leadership skills and participate in diverse and inclusive teams.
We believe this elevates the need to build school communities back better and more inclusive. Special Olympics Virginia offers age-appropriate videos promoting inclusion of people with differences. Elementary-level videos feature a Special Olympics athlete and sibling reading pictures books. Videos highlighting how people turned their experiences with isolation into inclusive opportunities are available for older students. Optional discussion questions and activities are available for each lesson. When students do return to school in person, these videos can encourage continued inclusive practices that make everyone feel welcome.
Special Olympics Unified Champion Schools® (UCS) is a strategy for schools Pre-K through university that intentionally promotes meaningful social inclusion by bringing together young people with and without intellectual disabilities. Using UCS tools, schools learn to build accepting school environments. In fact, 81% of students say UCS is changing their school for the better and 94% of teachers/school staff say it increases opportunities for students with and without intellectual disabilities to work together. Learn more about Unified Champion Schools inclusive sports, leadership and educational opportunities here.