by Kristie Smith from Dallas News:
Bill and Sandie Wood waited anxiously on the delivery of their son, Chase, 15 years ago. Chase’s older brother, Austin, was also excited for his younger brother to arrive.
None of them saw it coming when the doctor walked into the room and informed them that their child had Down syndrome. Down syndrome is a genetic condition that causes delays in physical and intellectual development.
“We were clueless,” Sandie said. “I had never heard of Chase’s condition. I did not realize how much help I was going to need and thought I could do it on my own but quickly realized that was not the case. Thank God for DSG — Down Syndrome Guild.”
DSG is a group of parents who help others who have children born with disabilities.
Now, 15 years later, Chase has grown to 5 feet 9 inches and is 168 pounds of athletic ability. Since his seventh-grade year, he has been a member of Rockwall ISD’s Williams Middle School Wildcat football team playing defensive tackle. His younger brother, Seth, assists and is one of his strongest supporters.
It was not easy for Chase to be a part of the team. While head coach Kip Muhl was receptive to Sandie’s proposal, he understandably was concerned about safety issues. However, after consideration, the coach agreed to allow Chase to be a Wildcat.
Chase is coached and instructed compassionately by coach Michael Barineau and playfully argues with coach Scott Gill over what professional football team is the best. Chase is one of the guys.
What is touching is how Chase’s teammates respond to him; he is treated for his ability and not his disability. However, when Chase needs assistance, his team members jump in to assist their defensive tackle.
One time before a game, his shoes were untied, and another time his shoes were on the wrong feet. Both times, team members quickly helped Chase so he would be ready to knock down the Wildcat opponents.
Chase has played numerous sports, including soccer, basketball and baseball. He’s also a member of a cheer squad for children with disabilities. Whatever the sport, Chase is happy and cheers whether his team is winning or losing.
The players taught Chase to high-five and pat instead of his usual brother hugs. When Chase knocks down an opposing player, he quickly offers his hand to help them up.
More educators and coaches should find ways to include children with special needs. When they do, everyone learns something — about the special-needs player and about themselves. The boys taught Chase team sport protocols while Chase taught them enthusiasm, as he does not care if he wins or loses as long as he is playing the game.
The Wildcat team has taught others that we are all one — we are all capable of being on the same team.
Kristie Smith teaches visually impaired students of all ages in the Mesquite ISD and is a Teacher Voices volunteer columnist. Her email address is firstname.lastname@example.org