Fort Worth ISD

Fort Worth ISD Holds an Inclusive Special Needs Basketball Tournament

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The basketball tournament at Southwest High School in Fort Worth was just like any other with cheering fans and cheerleaders.

"I get to exercise and get strength for the next game in the future," explaining why the game is fun, student basketball player Jennifer Bell said.

"They're so excited and the great thing is if they win, they're excited,” Co-organizer and FWISD Adaptive P.E. teacher Dave Oleson said. “If they lose, they're excited. They just want the opportunity and that's what this gives them."

Given an opportunity because the Unified Tournament includes both students with intellectual disabilities and those without.

"It means everything,” grandmother of student Susan Morris said. “It's just so special to get to see her do something that she loves and have the opportunity to have the kids come cheer for her and be around."

Coach Veronica McEwing loves encouraging the players and seeing what it means to them to be included.

"Oh, this just boosts them up,” McEwing said. “Some of them feel like they are the best thing since sliced bread walking on campus. But it actually gives them an opportunity to know they are recognized, and they feel special."

The event is a learning opportunity for all students with or without disabilities.

"Special needs students, it gives them confidence,” Oleson said. “It gives them the ability to work as a team. It shows them they can do anything anyone else can do. Also for our general education students, it's an opportunity for them to be a leader and a mentor to those students."

Cheering on his son Charlie, Bret Phillips definitely sees this as a true team-building moment.

"I think it's a lot like gift-giving,” Phillips said. “It's as much for you as it is for them and for Charlie and his peers. I can't imagine the effect it has on them to be able to participate with him and what it does for them in their hearts and minds."

Thanks to a State bill passed this summer Unified Sports is now recognized as a sanctioned UIL Division.

It gives students with intellectual disabilities the same opportunities to compete at the area and state levels.

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