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“MAGGIE had been four days at her aunt Moss’s giving the early June sunshine quite a new brightness in the care-dimmed eyes of that affectionate woman, and making an epoch for her cousins great and small, who were learning her words and actions by heart, as if she had been a transient avatar of perfect wisdom and beauty.”
—- The Mill on the Floss by George Eliot
For students, parents and those who continually champion the fight of the developmentally disabled, the words and actions of Eunice Kennedy Shriver came from the heart which is the ultimate form of sincerity. As we mourn her loss, it is only right that we celebrate her legacy of achievements and remember that the fight for children with special needs continues on.
Full of passion and vision to improve the lives of the developmentally disabled, Shriver taught and led by example. Inspired by the plight of her sister Rosemary Kennedy who was mentally disabled, Eunice knew that although the developmentally disabled might have major difficulties with life activities, it did not mean that they could not live active and productive lives within society.
In 1963, Shriver started a special summer camp which led to the first Special Olympics in 1968. From then on, the Special Olympics would garner national and international attention. She gave parents and children hope. She gave life to a movement that had previously been ignored.
Although much ground has been covered for children with disabilities, there is still much to be done. This is especially true in the area of education. Just this week there are articles focused on the plight of children with special needs.
The New York Times has an article about a new study which found that students with disabilities made up 18.8 percent of students who suffered corporal punishment at school during the 2006-2007 school year, although they constituted just 13.7 percent of the total nationwide student population.
Another article in Education Week looks at the National Assessment of Educational Progress proposal to set new and more uniform testing for English as second language learners and students with disabilities. The ultimate goal is inclusion.
In Ohio, we can help to open additional paths to students with special needs by offering them educational options that recognize that students with disabilities need flexibility in learning. One such option is Senate Bill 6 which would create a Special Education Scholarship that would allow parents the ability to find the best education that meets the unique needs of their child.
Eunice Kennedy Shriver knew that although institutions can help those with disabilities, it can also hinder the potential development of a being. She knew that the real potential lies within the individual and every individual has the right to achieve.
— Tisha Brady