North Texas

Lewisville ISD Tournament Keeps Special Needs Students Off the Sidelines

A special basketball tournament at one North Texas high school is providing opportunities to a group of kids who might not otherwise have one.

Lewisville ISD hosted its inaugural Unified Basketball Competition, to make sure no student is left on the sidelines.

16-year-old Madi Au is autistic and had never shot a basketball in her life, until last weekend. Now you can’t keep Madi off the court. She is one of dozens of special needs students taking part in the tournament, which pairs special needs kids and non-disabled peers. Madi teamed up with senior Kaiya Braggs, who encouraged her, and kept passing the ball until Madi made a shot.

"I love playing. It's amazing," said Braggs. "The impact we have on them, I can tell they're motivated to do better."

The tournament was organized by Bailey Fry, a Lewisville ISD employee, who first heard about unified sports while working in Oklahoma.

"I used to be a special education teacher here. Some of these students were my students, and I love seeing them being involved on a team," said Fry.

"It's different than just having a normal friendship. You play together, you learn together, you struggle together, and I think that's really important."

The tournament follows a movement by Special Olympics, promoting inclusions, kindness and friendship between special athletes and their more able bodied counterparts.

Madi's mother said she's seen the difference since she began participating.

"I think those unified partners are able to get her out of her shell a little bit and open her up," said Kara Massey. "She's very shy, and she just really opens up with those kids."

For organizers, that's what it's all about. Making sure every kid gets a shot.

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