Image: Flickr/Landry Heaton

Image: Flickr/Landry Heaton

This is one of the best times of year for someone who loves sports. The World Series, college and pro football, soccer and the start of the NBA and NHL seasons are a great diversion for many around the country. For children with disabilities and serious health issues, sports can be more than a diversion – being a fan can benefit and enrich their lives.

Sports as educational opportunity: Following a team offers opportunities to learn about geography, history, biographies, and of course, math. Learning to keep score and to interpret seemingly endless statistics are great for kids who may be missing out on a lot of school time.

nbaSports as connection: When you are a fan of a team, you become part of a larger community. Watching on television, following on social media, and especially attending a game in person makes you instantly part of the energy and emotion of a much larger group of people. How wonderful it can be to share that connection with both friends and strangers alike! People of all ages, backgrounds and world views can connect in a positive way when they are fans.

Sports as inspiration: There are many great and inspiring stories of athletes overcoming challenges and making a difference in the world. When you are facing your own challenges, these examples can be even more powerful. Consider checking out the series Count On Me Sports, which feature inspiring short stories of athletes in all kinds of sports.

Sports participation: Being a fan is great, but there are also sports programs that are designed to welcome and include athletes with disabilities and health challenges. Special Olympics, Miracle League, Wheelchair Basketball, Local Therapeutic Recreation Programs, E-Sports, and Challenger Little League are some of the organizations that provide those opportunities. You might also consider being an assistant for a team, a scorekeeper, equipment manager or even a cheerleader.

Pick a team, any team: Do you have professional sports in your area? A college? A favorite color? Mascot? Local player? There are many reasons, some very logical, others just based on emotions and passions, to connect with a team. Grab a jersey and jump right in!

Joanna Jaeger
Joanna Jaeger is the mother of two young adults, one with autism, both with Type 1 diabetes. All along her journey, Joanna has found ways to connect with other families both seeking and providing support. She has been a long-time volunteer with Parents Helping Parents in Santa Clara, CA (www.php.org) providing help to families of children with a wide range of special needs as a mentor parent, advocate, fundraiser and Board member. She is passionate about food, travel, and baseball.

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