#ChallengeAcceptedSOC: Interviewing the Toronto Agronauts with Cabbie Richards

#ChallangeAcceptedSOC

So, as I and others have probably told you by now, it’s the 50th Anniversary of Special Olympics this year, and there’s a lot to celebrate.  In the days leading up to the anniversary next week, SO has been doing a lot to prepare themselves and the world for its birthday.  One of the ways they have been doing so is with the Challenge Accepted ad campaign.

One of the core ideas behind Special Olympics is that the lives of people with Intellectual Disabilities, such as myself, can be improved in many different ways by playing sports.  While Special Olympics helps us to become more physically healthy, it also creates improvement in non-athletic parts of life as well: one ad I saw [and briefly appeared in as a bald goal keeper] shows an Athlete who successfully works a job in a grocery store.

challange bald goalie

The ad wasn’t shy about how hard it was for this man to get the job–and discussed the daily struggles of other people as well–but it shows that the Challenge” can be “Accepted” and completed.  That’s the general concept behind the Challenge Accepted campaign: Special Olympics Athletes can go on to other things in life, just as everybody else.

I had the incredible honour of being invited to co-host an episode of Cabbie Presents, a TSN interview show starring Cabbie Richards.  For a long time now, I’ve been wanting to find a career in writing, and recently, sports journalism has been something that I’m seriously considering going into.  As one can imagine, this was a huge, exciting opportunity for me.

challange cabbie and franklin

The episode was formatted so that Cabbie, and then me, would interview  three of the Toronto Argonauts’ players: Marcus Ball [linebacker], James Wilder Jr [running back], and James Franklin [quarterback].  It was an amazing thing to be asked to do, and I was both excited and nervous for having the opportunity to talk with such incredible gentlemen.

I prepared by researching both the Argonaut players and Cabbie Richards.  While I found it very helpful to watch Cabbie Presents–which is also quite enjoyable for its unique and playful tone–I am typically a book-learner, so I gained a lot of insight reading an interview of Cabbie held by the Globe and Mail.  Basically, he owed much of his success to never asking cliche or typical questions, instead preferring anything unorthodox and original, while also allowing his own personality to show through to make himself memorable.  It’s pretty good advice for any aspiring commentator.  It’s very good advice for an aspiring commentator appearing on Cabbie’s show.

challange matthew and dave

After arriving a little bit early, there was some time to kill and meet the staff before the big names [the Argos and Cabbie] showed up to the BMO Field.  Everyone–from Special Olympics, TSN and the Argos–was very friendly, casual and planned everything out for me.  In particular, a TSN reporter named Matthew and Cabbie’s producer Dave helped show me a lot of the ropes for TV presenting.  Aside from being an extremely fun afternoon, it was extremely educational as well.

challange argo team

Before not a lot of time at all, Cabbie Richards arrived, quickly followed by the whole Argonauts team.  It’s something else, meeting a reporter you recognize from TV [or in my case, YouTube], and seeing a team of warriors from your city’s football team, all in quick succession with one another.  It’s one of the times that being Autistic is actually quite helpful.  Even though Autism makes emotions stronger and sometimes harder to control, sometimes they process in a way that makes my reactions less extreme than normal people.  I’m way less prone to the same kind of emotional outbursts or freezes that normal people have [no book or movie has ever made me cry, for instance].

challange marcus ball.jpg

Like many things in TV, the filming process went by pretty quickly, all things considered.  I had my own questions to ask the Argos, following Cabbie’s theme of routine.  Because I don’t want to spoil the video, I won’t go over exactly what we said, but let me tell you: it’s truly something else to talk to celebrity athletes in a way like that, in front of a camera.

challange james wilder

I wanted to ask interesting questions.  Following Cabbie’s advice, that’s a good way to present yourself as a interviewer.  It’s also doing the athletes a fair job, since they get to show their personalities more than they would being asked things that are either cliche or too technical and game strategy-based.  As part of my summer job with Special Olympics, I got to interview and write bios for the players on this year’s Toronto FC Unified team [the same one I was on last year], which helped me ask those kinds of questions in a more familiar environment.  Just like with the Unified team, I wanted to ask questions that allowed the person I was interviewing to talk, and reveal themselves.

challange james franklin

I did talk a little more than I usually like to with interviews–mostly to tie things together with the Special Olympics POV–but I think the video shoots had a natural conversational flow to them.  The Argos, for their part, all gave very thoughtful, articulate and personable answers.  As an athlete, I related to a lot of what they were saying, and found myself in the paths and stories they outlined.

challange still talking

I could tell the Argos were genuinely interested in talking to me [I even had the chance to chat with James Franklin after the camera stopped rolling, which was super awesome], and all of them were really nice.  The same goes for Cabbie Richards as well as the behind-the-scenes people.

When people think of journalism, usually they picture the picture cynical, new-york based investigative scoop-hunters who work in a competitive, political environment.   While that’s obviously a huge exaggeration, parts of that world do exist in parts of news reporting.

But sports broadcasting always seemed different; listening to the announcers for any TV sport program, you can tell they truly  have fun at their job.  I’ve also found that with the sport journalists that I’ve met in person.  I’m glad that my initial impression has so far been confirmed in spades.  I’m extremely glad that Special Olympics, TSN, Cabbie Richards and the Argos gave me a huge opportunity to get my foot into the door of that world.  And now I’m one big step closer to my dream job.

So, to answer the call for Special Olympics’ 50th year, I say, “#ChallengeAccepted”.

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The time I delivered the game ball to a TFC Game

tfc happy

So, for anyone who hasn’t read some of my other posts about it, I’ve been lucky  enough to have the incredible once-in-a-lifetime opportunity of getting onto a Special Olympics Unified soccer team to represent Toronto.  It’s truly been the gift that keeps on giving; because of it, I got invited to play in the Unified MLS All Star Game in Chicago [and watch the game between MLS All Stars vs Real Madrid], got to do different interviews about the event, and finally, my team was flown to Montreal to play against the city’s own Unified Team.  Oh, and last year, my team also got to watch a TFC game in the VIP Suite, and also go on the field at half-time.  There’s also been times we met different TFC players.  And got invited to watch their games.  Like I said, the gift that keeps on giving.

2017-50th-anniversary-slider-01

This year marks the 50th Anniversary of Special Olympics, which has kick-started a year of celebration and special events commemorating SO on how far it has come in its wonderful mission.  Among a whole bunch of other stuff, the big event is a week-long event which includes a soccer tournament held between various countries from throughout the world!  Seriously, the teams include Russia, Nigeria and Canada, the last of which I–believe it or not–am actually on.  Holy Seven Nation Army Batman!

[Seriously, you haven’t heard the song Seven Nation Army until you’ve heard it sung by an entire stadium of united soccer fans].

In addition to that, there’s another TFC Unified team this year, and those guys get to play against the Chicago Fire during the 50th anniversary.  As one of the additional celebrations of Special Olympics, people from both teams got invited to watch the Toronto Football Club play against Washington’s DC United.  Oh, did I mention we got to see it from the VIP Suite?  Because we did, and it’s ridiculous luxury in there.

Furthermore–and also–I was chosen to carry out the game ball before the match started.  The same one that they use for the game!  It was an incredible honour, although like a lot of things, it didn’t quite hit me how much of an honour until I was actually there.  Then, it left the world the vague, unseen future, and became real.

We [both my mom and some of my teammates] showed up early.  Soccer games are great to show up early to: there’s plenty of fans walking around, stores are open, some entertainment is about–the stadium feels alive. There was plenty of time for us to locate our VIP section, and walk around before we had to meet our people to go down to the field.  It was also a good opportunity to buy some 50/50 tickets from a friend of mine I met through Special Olympics basketball.  That was kind of bitter sweet: it was the last time we could do so.  I haven’t mentioned this yet, but for some reason the 50/50 tickets aren’t going to be sold by people from charities anymore.  Instead of being tied with charities with Special Olympics, it’s going to be done entirely by MLSE employees.

tfc jamie and kendra

Jamie from SOC (l) and Kendra from the TFC (r)

But enough about that, because the MLSE also had given me a once-in-a-lifetime moment.  I was met by friendly, familiar people I already knew through Special Olympics soccer, and we had a nice, casual walk through the deep underbelly of the BMO Field.  There were a lot of sights on the way, but I think the most interesting was going behind the net to watch the TFC practice.

tfc sideline

It truly is something, especially as a newly-discovered fan of soccer, to be in a place like that.  As a player myself, I could relate to the movements of both TFC goalkeeper Alex Bono along with the guys passing balls around on the field.  What was new to me, and I guess always will be, is the size of the field.  Especially the amount of people in the glorious, shiny walls of bleachers and stands.   The best, however, would be getting to watch the TFC players in such a close, almost intimate light.  This is their big doing, the game that they play, the legend as it were.  Being able to see it on level ground… something else.  Truly something else.  It’s a small miracle that my face muscles didn’t get sore, on account of the fact that I was smiling the entire time.

tfc kids.jpg

When it got close to my time to place the ball, me and the people taking care of me  moved closer to centre field.  The same area where the player tunnel is.  At the same time, I was standing next to two teams of children representing the TFC and Chicago Fire; their job was to bring out the flags.  I related to them a lot during out standing there, even though we didn’t exchange any words.  I guess it goes back to what I call “the universal language of soccer”.  That and shared awesomeness.

tfc doug singer

There was one guy standing there who looked oddly familiar, but for the life of me, I couldn’t figure out where I recognized him from.  Maybe soccer?  Probably, but where?  Then I figured it out, he was the anthem singer!  I got to say hi to him, his name is Doug.  If you’re reading this, hi Doug!  Yeah, so Doug sang the anthem right in front of where I was standing, which was also filled with cameramen, security guards and alongside the relatable flag-carrying children.  When both anthems were over, the children went farther out into the field, carrying their flags with them.  Then, it was my turn.

tfc waving

Before I went out, I saw my teammates sitting in the VIP booth.  They waved at me when I scanned the bleachers for them, and I waved back.  I liked the idea of them watching me put the ball out.  It was kinda like they were there with me, in a way.  Then, the big moment came.

tfc getting ready

I was almost overwhelmed with joy, but wasn’t.  Instead, I got to relish every nano-second of it, perfectly content.  It feels huge being out there, on the field, surrounded by the power of the fans, holding the ball.

bmo deliver ball

The ball that makes it all happen, the center-piece of the world’s greatest pastime: soccer.  It was equally empowering and humbling.  Hugging both the ball, and my stuffed dog alongside it, is something I’ll never forget.

bmo wave to the crowd

 

 

With all the game pieces set, it was time to watch the match go on.  Having watched a lot of sports games from the normal stands, I really appreciate getting the ultra-experience that is the VIP section.  There was one game I went to at the BMO Field with a couple of friends were we showed up late, and I was the only one who had money so we each got 1/3 of a hot dog.  That was still a really fun day.  This was even better.  And it was made better because I got to be reunited with some of my former teammates: those of which also made it onto either 2018’s TFC or Team Canada.

tfc vip

Being there, it was kinda like being a celebrity.  There was a really nice bartender who catered us food–nice food, not the usual stadium fair–the seats were secluded and spacious, and the atmosphere was jolly and festive.  Again, even better because I was friends with a lot of people there.  A few game minutes before halftime, me and the other athletes got up to leave.  Why?  Because we were invited to go down to the field.

tfc tunnel

Did I mention the word “surreal”?  Because I think I should mention it again.  Going down to the center of a fully active soccer pitch is a once-in-a-lifetime experience, and Special Olympics has blessed both me and many of my teammates with that experience more than once.  Even though we had experience with it, it didn’t get old.  It never does.

The field, the roaring surge of the audience, watching the players play at an angle that is honestly way better than that from the TV [you could see every inch of their faces in clear detail, and the sweat glistening off of them] it put me way more in the moment, in the now, then any of that Virtual Reality stuff they can cook up.  Even the wind put it all together: I felt like I was right there with the TFC, supporting them, and knowing exactly what they were going through that game.  Alongside my team, there were the same children from earlier.  And we were greeted by Dwayne De Rosario: Canada’s top scoring soccer player, who accompanied and familiarized himself with my team during our journey.  It was nice to see him again.  Even though I’ve been on a big-league soccer field a few times before, this time may have been the best.  With the greater amount of experience I have now, I could understand and appreciate the way of things a lot better.

bmo so team

 

We went onto the field, and this time, my teammates weren’t just there in spirit.  We went on together, a truly Unified soccer team, with brave faces and waves to address the crowd.  And then we went back inside to our VIP section.  Some time there, I was pulled aside to do an interview with a woman named Mandy, who was hosting an episode of the TFC’s Red AlertRed Alert followed my team last year during our journey to the Unified game, and then it was hosted by a woman named Caroline.  Both her and Mandy were really nice, and also asked questions in a way that made someone feel comfortable and at ease.  I’ve done interviews a couple of times by now–and often relating to Unified sports and soccer–so I’m a little more prepared for them now than when I first started.  Still, it definitely added to the whole  celebrity experience of the night.

tfc filming

Speaking of the game… it was pretty intense.  The first half was brutal, the TFC were down 3/0, with the first goal being scored within the first 10 minutes, and the last just before we went down to the field.  We were barely getting past Washington’s defense.  But the second half started with a new found Toronto spark.  Somehow, the TFC went on a run the same way that D. C. United did, tying the game.  It felt like Toronto itself roared with the passing of each goal and near-miss goalie save by our team.  Then, Washington scored again, in stoppage time.  With only a couple minutes left, the TFC cinched a tie, with a headder no less. And what I really liked was who got it in.

So, through Special Olympics, I’ve obviously had a ton of life-affirming experiences, both long and short-term, normal and incredible.  I also got to meet a lot of the TFC players: Clint Irwin, Michael Bradley, Jozy Altidore and Steven Beitashour.  All of them were very friendly, very welcoming, and earnestly, genuinely pleased to meet me and my crew.  The first TFC player I met was a year before the tryouts that got me onto the Unified team, it was a similar event at Kia Fields, except it was a practice instead of a practice/tryout.  The player I met was Nick Hagglund.

nick-hagglund

So, he met everybody that showed up, all the athletes.  He spent a good amount of time chatting with me and my friend, and even answered honestly when my friend [quite cheekily, I might add] asked if some professional players flop to get penalties.  “Well, some do”.  He left to go cheer up a little boy who was crying and by himself, having a one on one with him to make his day better.  No one asked that of him, there wasn’t anyone even watching really.  He just did it.  Later, me and everybody else got to have a delicious lunch prepared by the staff at the Kia Fields training facility: the same people who also cook for the TFC.  Nick Hagglund sat down with us the whole meal, and talked casually with us all.  He even recognized me and my friend specifically a year later, remembering us from the time before–very similar to how De Rosario has, I might add.

If you couldn’t tell where I was going with this, Nick Hagglund was the guy who got the last-minute, game tying header.  It was even cooler because he plays defender, and they don’t usually get to shoot as much as the strikers or even mid-fielders do.  I thought he deserved to get a sweet goal like that, for who he was with us.

tfc nice pic

Final notes: thank you thank you thank!  Huge thanks to everybody with Special Olympics, the MLS, TFC and Kia Motors who made this possible.  Everybody I’ve met–be they celebrities like De Rosario, to media consultants with a big auto company, and the incredibly kind people who work to maintain Special Olympics’ goals–are so kind, and did so much to make sure that me and my fellow athletes and partners got to have the best experience possible.  That we get to continue having the best experience possible.  And above all, they treat us as equals: as people they know, as people who are each individual and unique, and people who they always enjoy the company of.  It was a really nice day, and I’m looking forward to my opportunity to represent Canada in the 50th Anniversary Chicago Games.

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Why Doug Ford doesn’t know or care about what Autism is

So, I’ve been writing a fair amount of posts about this election, and its becoming something of an issue because there’s a bunch of nicer, more positive articles in the works–about my time in Special Olympics–that are being bumped back by this infuriating nonsense.  But, political posts tend to be very dated, and I want to get this published quickly while the word “election” is still buzzing about.

cartoon-mon

In the post I wrote before the final day of voting–about how Autism is a bargaining chip for Canadian politicians–I mainly focused on the Liberals and NDP.  That’s for a couple of reasons.  First off, I was never going to vote Conservative, and at that time I was trying to figure out which of the other two I should go for.  Secondly, at least the Liberals [and sort of the NDP] actually have an Autism policy, instead of baseless, random comments made by their party leader.  While the Liberals and NDP made me feel like that Autism was  just another consideration in trying to win over the voters–something to be regarded only for personal gain–at  least they made me feel like it was something people actually gave a shit about!

doug says

Okay, so what was it that Trump–I mean–Ford said that has me so… what’s that word?  Triggered?  What did he say that has me so, “triggered”?  Well, in 2014–before Ford was candidate for provincial premier–there was a group home for Intellectually disabled people owned by The Griffin Centre.  Five people aged from 12 to 18 lived there, and their disabilities ranged from Developmental Delay to Autism.  Neighbours made multiple noise complaints, and sent emergency service workers to the building several times.  So what does Doug Ford, in all his wisdom, do about this situation?  He describes the house’s residents as criminals, and moans about how much their very presence drove the area’s property value by $150,000 [where the hell he got this number, I don’t know, I suspect it’s the same place that his last meal came out of as well].

Ford went on further, saying that he was going to personally buy the home and force its people elsewhere.  When later questioned about this statement this year–during his campaign–Ford dismissed it as a lie, saying that you were going to hear many of them during the election.  I mean, Ford would know: he’s the cause of at least half of those lies.  However, his words were caught on tape, so there is verifiable proof that he lied.  Did people care?  No, they still voted for him, probably lured by the smell of $1 dollar beers and meager tax cuts.

criminal kia

Our dog Kia and his cat companion

Where to begin?  Well, first of all, I’d like to mention that I’m no “criminal”, as Ford puts it.  In fact, my dog is much of a menace to my next-door neighbours than I am.  Although unlike those living near the Griffin Centre, they’re understanding and decent enough people to not complain as long as we do our part to calm the canine down.  For the record, my dog is a miniature poodle/miniature schnauzer mix, whose never bitten anyone in her 14 years of life, constantly barks in this tiny, yippy little voice, and is smaller than one of our cats.

'I know you're tired of hearing the same old political cliches, but I believe in recycling.'

 

What I really hate about the video–you know, the one that Ford said didn’t exist–he said that he wasn’t trying to talk about all Autistic people, and that “[his] heart goes out to” all people living with Autism, or the parents of children who have it.  I hate that phrase, “my/our heart[s] go out to”.  It’s a copout, a spineless phrase uttered by many powerful men and women who can’t be bothered to actually help the people who their “hearts go out to”.  The phrase must be in the handbook of Easy Political Cliches, alongside the phrases “family values” and “they’re taking our jobs”.  It’s spoken by congressmen after another school shooting has happened in the states, but the NRA proves to be a better lobbying factor than people’s lives.  It’s spoken by men in government to survivors of disasters like the Puerto Rico hurricane, as they stand by and do nothing to supply their own citizens with as much of  a luxury as a restored electric grid, or houses that are emptied of flood water.  Sometimes, it’s spoken by people who truly are unable to do anything more, good people who want to do the best they can, but just don’t have the power to fix more than what they have.

autism-demo

But Ford isn’t one of those people, he’s the  premier of Ontario!  You know what, Ford?  If your heart truly “goes out” to people like me, than do something with your power!  Don’t buy the group home house and sell it!  You think they’re criminals now?  Wait till you kick them out of their home and send them to the streets!  If their behaviour is so reckless that it’s a true menace to the neighbourhood–and not a fabrication by a bunch of busybodies who are bored–than spend money so that  Griffin Centre has more therapists and resources to calm down their clients.  Believe me, I know that Autistic people can be difficult, and can legitimately, though rarely, be dangerous to people around them–or much more likely themselves.  What a lot of people don’t understand is the things that go on inside our own heads: the reasons behind why we can be so difficult.  If someone is lashing out on the outside, you can only imagine what they’re going through on the inside.  That’s why we need a government to help us, not alienate us and deride people for who they are.

For what it’s worth, the Ford government has pledged $100 million dollars to helping people with  Autism.  While that is a pretty large amount of money, they haven’t released any statements about what they’re going to do with it, or how it can be best spent to see real progress.  As you can imagine, most parents of Autistic children aren’t too optimistic about how Ford is going to use this money.  Meanwhile, the NDP said they would give twice as much money, $201 million dollars.  In my opinion, however, they were just as vague as the Conservatives, and similarly didn’t give any actual insight into what their real plans were.

 

Finally, there’s one more thing that Ford did, back in 2014, about this whole Griffin Centre controversy that he stirred up.  It’s a little thing–almost insignificant, really–but I feel like it gives insight into his character.  His true character, not the guy who walks around smiling, going to people’s homes to work out their problems, tokenly lowering taxes for working-class people, and pledging money to causes he doesn’t really care about.  A man who had a son with Autism had the opportunity to speak with Ford, and he used that brief window to question the man’s integrity.  Ford’s response?  “Go to hell.”  Those three words, in that order, with no surrounding context to make it understandable.  I cannot begin to explain how inappropriate that is.

honest politican

When we elect someone, in a democracy, we are supposed to be picking the best candidate possible.  Essentially, we’re saying that out of this whoooooole group of people–the millions who live in Ontario–we chose one person who has the best qualities for leading the herd.  This person should be somewhat like us, enough to understand our problems, but they should also be a little bit more than us too.

They should be smarter, more socially conscious than the average person, and also enough of a forward thinker to understand the long-term consequences of their actions.  They should be progressive enough to understand–or at least try to understand–all different kinds of people, even those who lie on the completely opposite of their political spectrum.  Above all, this person should be classy, cultured and dignified enough to let rationality and civility triumph above the baser, more primal instincts of us common people.  That is why they should never cuss out, marginalize, or yell at the people they were elected to serve.  That is why Doug Ford telling a prospective voter to “go to hell” for the mere yet egregious sin of politely disagreeing with him is absolutely disgusting.

IMG_2555

 

If Ford can do that, through respect and civility out the window, when he’s  leading out province, I  don’t see why I shouldn’t do  the same thing.  If he can totally disregard what another man is saying, and refer to a group of people as mere “criminals” with no possibility of reform or redemption, I see no reason why Ford himself should not be treated by his own standards: with stereotyping and rude playground insults.  It’s the Golden Rule after all, right?  You know his campaign slogan, “I’m with Doug.”?  I’ve got a better one for him, taking his own, well-used rules of politics and applying them to my own discourse.  “Fuck Ford.”

 

My Sources

[Webpage for The Griffin Centre–who Ford bashed]

1, About Us, [2010], The Griffin Centre, retrieved 2018, June 8th, http://www.griffin-centre.org/about.php

[Ford lying about having said anything, and proof that he f%cking did]

2, Doug Ford Claims He Never Bashed a Home for Kids with Autism.  This Video Proves He Did., [2018, April 17th], PressProgress, retrieved 2018, June 8th, https://pressprogress.ca/doug-ford-claims-he-never-bashed-a-home-for-kids-with-autism-this-video-proves-he-did/

[Doug Ford’s Autism plan, which parents are disappointed by]

3, Jones, A., Parents of children with autism not convinced of Ford funding promise, [2018, June 6th], Global News, retreived 2018, June 8th, https://globalnews.ca/news/4256998/doug-ford-autism-children/

[Ford telling a man to “go to hell”, circa 2014]

4, City, D. D., ‘Go to hell’, Doug Ford tells autistic son’s dad after integrity complaint, [2014, July 4th], The Toronto Stat, retrieved 2018, June 8th, https://www.thestar.com/news/city_hall/toronto2014election/2014/07/04/go_to_hell_doug_ford_tells_autistic_sons_dad_after_making_integrity_complaint.html

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Why Doug Ford winning the election is disappointing

Alternate title: What the hell Ontario?!

election 2018

So, this year was the first time I actually got to vote, which is a little less frustrating than not being to take part in a crucial part of democratic politics just because I was a single year off the arbitrary voting age.  Even more so, because–as an American-born citizen–I wanted to cast my vote to try and do something to prevent the utter train wreck that was Trump v Clinton [now I don’t  think I’m going to register as an American voter: there’s a risk I might get taxed even as a non-resident, because the US military isn’t going to waste the budget by themselves].  However, I didn’t need to enter the American election, we had our own shitty knockoff of the American election right here, complete with suspiciously similar substitutes of the well known characters from American Election 2016, which are just different enough to not be targeted for copyright infringement [under the premise that politics are television shows with intellectual property, which would be better than the reality of things].

wynne vs hilary

I’m not entirely joking with that comparison of the Ontario election to the American Federal election.  Both were a match-up between a greedy, selfish and untrustworthy centre-left female candidate [Clinton/Wynne], and an ignorant, prejudiced in every sense of the word, loudmouth extreme-conservative man with no filter [Trump/Ford].  In both elections, the former was wildly unpopular despite somehow having achieved large political success, and the latter was somehow popular among people who didn’t see them as the frothing, hate-spewing person that they really  are.  Both races had a promising third-party candidate, although the NDP had a far better shot than Bernie Sanders–mostly because the NDP have always been a viable third party, more so than anything in the US.  And in both races, it’s a shame they weren’t the ones that people picked.  I suppose the one good thing about Ontario’s election is that Russia didn’t hack it.

election results

Enough beating around the bush, Doug Ford won the election.  While the NDP–who I voted for–looked like a good competitor, but the Conservative Party won 73 seats to the New Democratic Party’s 40.  The Liberals have a measly 7 seats, and the Green Party has only one seat [I feel sorry for whoever that person is].  While people in the more urban areas of Ontario voted for NDP, people in the 905 area [including Mississauga but also rural parts of the province] preferred to go Conservative.  Of course, there’s always people who voted against the trends, in either place.  And with such a polarized election, there was going to be a lot of unhappy people, regardless of the outcome… ah the wonders of democracy.  So,  why am I disappointed so much?

People–especially Canadians–should know better.  There’s so much dirt about Doug Ford, he’s being sued by his late brother’s widow for supposedly withholding their inheritance money, his oft-repeated tax cuts would only save minimum wage employees $800 dollars a year, he has said horribly prejudiced things about Autistic people [and later lied about it], he wants to get rid of the sex-education we have in schools, and deny abortion rights to teenagers.  He’s also opposing the carbon tax, because who needs clean air? Certainly not pregnant teenagers!  But people didn’t read those headlines, didn’t look for them.  They heard “Lower taxes!” and rejoiced, not thinking about how our schools, emergency services and socialized medicine all run on tax payer dollars.  Or even bothering to look up how much they’d actually save.  $800 a year will pay for one’s month rent in a small, cheap Toronto apartment.  The other 11 months are no better off than they were before.

doug bus

So, why do I oppose Ford’s choices about sex-ed and abortion.  Namely, because he gives the power over to parents.  Ford openly said that he wants parents to choose what their children are taught about sex–not the school system–and that parents should decide if their underage children abort, not the little girl who’s actually pregnant.  He even compared it to how children have to get permission slips to go on school field trips, and wondered why the same wasn’t true for abortion. Personally–and speaking as a man–I don’t think men have any right to tell women what they should and should not do with their bodies, which I guess makes me “pro-choice”. The mistake that Ford made is that he’s assuming that all parents are good people, or even make the right decisions when raising their kids.

Look, I’m not some rebellious teenage who hates his parents, and I’m not even speaking about my own family.  My family has raised me quite well, they educated me properly on sex–free of self-guilt or homophobic diatribes–but not everyone does that.  I have close friend who grew up in a conservative household: their father pushed them very hard into academic studies, was vehemently homophobic, and didn’t like me being around their child because I was supposedly a bad influence on their intelligence [either for not being in mainstream school or being Autistic, I’m not even sure he knows which].  This person’s mother is a lot nicer, and more loving, but like many unfortunate households, the father has all the power.

My friend is bisexual, and if they came out to their family, they would have been disowned.  Probably not before being beaten by the father–as he spouted verbal abuse about how he had no child, and that my friend was a useless piece of shit–so they had to turn to me and our friends for guidance about their sexuality.  Because of our progressive, Canadian culture, my friend knew that, despite what their father said, being gay or otherwise gender-queer is perfectly fine: normal even.  I imagine this could have been–in part–due to their school environment, my elementary school was certainly quick to tell us that “gay is normal”.  My friend is happy now, having forged their own, independent life, and accepts themself for who they are.

If it weren’t for their friends, this person would have had to turn to the school’s sex-ed for guidance.  Without that guidance, this person would have been stuck in an environment where they were derided and shamed for being who  they are.  That is the Ontario that Doug Ford wants to make, whether he understands this or not.  Whether Ford comprehends the entire scope of his choices, it doesn’t matter.  I can only imagine what my friend’s father would do if he had a pregnant daughter.  He certainly wouldn’t let her abort it, not if it went against his wishes.

vote

I could go on, but I won’t.  Carbon tax, Ford’s normalization of xenophobia, and so forth, that’s for news papers to cover.  Voting people don’t seem to read those antiquated, cute little things anymore any, so why does it matter if I talk about more  headlines?  Given that this is an Autism blog, I’m going to write about Ford’s relations with the Autistic community, which so far has proven to be as hateful and Trump-like as ever.  I’m disappointed that people really wanted this man to succeed.  But hey, maybe he’ll make good on his promise of $1 dollar beers.  Getting drunk may make this term go by a little easier.

Sources

[Rob Ford’s widow claiming that Doug schemed to take away her inheritance money]

1, Nasser, S., PC Leader Doug Ford faces lawsuit alleging millions withheld from late brother’s family, [2018, June 4th], CBC News, retreived 2018, June 8th, http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/toronto/doug-ford-faces-multimillion-dollar-lawsuit-1.4691378

[Doug Ford is exactly what white supremacists want]

2, Cox, E., O’Keefe, D., Seatter, E., Why Canada’s white supremacists want Doug Ford to win, [2018, May 24th], Ricochet, retrieved 2018, June 8th, https://ricochet.media/en/2217/why-canadas-white-supremacists-want-doug-ford-to-win

[Ford’s tax cuts only save people $800 bucks a year]

3, Breen, K., Reality check: the math behind Doug Ford’ minimum wage plan, [2018, April 17th], Global News, retrieved 2018, June 8th, https://globalnews.ca/news/4149786/doug-ford-minimum-wage-plan-math/

[Ford’s $1 dollar beer plan]

4, Brown, N., Doug Ford Wants to Bring Back $1 Dollar Beers to Ontario, [2018, May 27th], Bramptonist, retrieved 2018, June 8th, http://bramptonist.com/doug-ford-1-dollar-beers-ontario/

[Ford wants to remove the rights that teenagers have on their own bodies]

5, Beattie, S., PC Leader Doug Ford promises to scrap the Liberals sex-ed curriculum, [2018, March 12th], The Toronto Star, retrieved 2018, June 8th, https://www.thestar.com/news/queenspark/2018/03/12/pc-leader-doug-ford-promises-to-scrap-the-liberals-sex-ed-curriculum.html

6, Ferguson, R., PC Leadership candidate Doug Ford opens controversial abortion debate, [2018, March 5th], The Toronto Star, retrieved 2018, June 8th, https://www.thestar.com/news/queenspark/2018/03/05/pc-leadership-candidate-doug-ford-opens-controversial-abortion-debate.html

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Autism: a convenient bargaining chip for Canadian politicians

Alternate title: I just turned 19 and I already hate voting.

dont wanna vote

So, the Ontario elections are just a week away, and I’ve been doing some research to figure out who I want to elect as my province’s premier. 

Generally, I prefer the New Democratic Party [NDP], although I’ve found that the Liberals  are usually a pretty good party as well–ah–with Ontario being a major exception in that  statement.  As long as I can remember, I’ve been against the conservative government.  It wasn’t so much that I was against the whole party, just their leaders.   Stephen Harper did basically nothing to improve our country [ha, remember when that was the worst thing a politician could do?], and if you don’t know about Rob Ford, well… look him up.  I don’t like speaking ill of the dead, and there’s enough old news articles out there.  The current leader of the Progressive Conservative Party is Doug Ford, Rob’s brother.

doug ford meme

Doug Ford… is a mean person.  He’s called a group home for intellectually disabled youth a “nightmare”, and said that it was a detriment to the neighbourhood.  Another pleasant utterance of the man was when he told someone to “go to hell” for the  crime of questioning his integrity.  Doug than accused him of being on “a Jihad”, and I think in  this instance, it’s safe to say that Mr. Ford was equating Islamic Jihad with terrorism.  I have absolutely no patience for this trend in Western politics that seems to be angrily lashing out at anyone who is slightly different than oneself, or has a different opinion.  I’m pretty young, but I remember a time when politicans could disagree with one another and still be civil, nay, even respectful of people they didn’t like.  I could go on a big spiel about why Ford sucks–and believe me, I wrote a good one–but it just feels like a waste of space.  He is not my candidate.

Guess I’m not voting Conservative

kathleen wynne meme

So, all I have to do is pick between NDP or Liberal, right?  Well, as I’ve mentioned before, Kathleen Wynne has never been a favourite politician of mine.  In the autism community, she’s infamous for having cut funds to Ontario autism therapy, and denied it to anyone who was over the very young age of 5 years old.  On top of that, her government implemented a huge waiting list, so were unable to even get treatment at all before they aged past her arbitrary limit.  I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: I was lucky to be born in California, which had a surprisingly great, subsidized Autism treatment program, one that funded my family and gave me the support I needed.  If I was born in a government like Wynne’s, I would not be writing this.

However, Wynne’s government is now backtracking on that decision.  Moreover, they’ve released what sounds like a pretty solid plan for Autism funding.  “The Liberal government is set to announce Thursday that the $533-million Ontario Autism Program beginning next month will soon include a direct funding option, something families have long been clamouring for.” [2].  They did away with limiting criteria to “severity”, so any Autism diagnosis is able to get the therapy required.  Families and advocates are also consultants with the new program.  Most importantly, it is given to anyone under the age of 18.

donate

While that sounds pretty  good,  I wanted to learn more.  I wanted to learn more specifics about the Liberals’ new autism plan, and what the NDP had in store as well.  So, I went to their websites.  That wasn’t as easy as I thought.  Both websites make sure that the first thing you see is their party’s candidate smiling and looking friendly, followed by a large button you can click on to donate money.   After scrolling through generic pictures of happy white people, I looked for a search engine to type the word “autism”  into.  Neither website has a search engine, on the NDP website, the search tab’s usual domain–top right corner–is where the “DONATE” button is.

Both websites have articles, but you have to scroll through their selected news feed to find them.  I had to leave their websites, go to my own search engine, and type in “ontario liberal website autism” and “ontario NDP website autism”.  As a person who is trying to be an informed, Canadian voter, I shouldn’t have to do that.  Candidate parties should have the information up front for you, not  buried in an over-saturated news feed and hidden behind pictures of smiling white people.

Ah, I still haven’t found much on the NDP’s autism plan.  Their own PDF–you know, the one they want voters  to read?–doesn’t have any specific numbers or stats.  They talked about how very important it is that children with special needs get the education they deserve, and were rather quick to point out the current Liberal government’s failure to meet those  needs.  They criticized Wynne’s twice, actually, in the span of 296 words.  In that same batch letters, however, the NDP did not list a single number of how much money they  were actually planning on spending on Autism.  Nor did they explain the specifics of how they were going to make their plans a reality.

ndp meme

I have no idea how the NDP plan to tackle the unique challenge of educating Autistic youths, or how they can do so under a limited budget.  Whenever I do find exact numbers, they’re cited by a Liberal politician, who is equally quick to point out some supposedly inherent flaw in the NDP’s plan.  Specifically, the Liberals claim that the NDP skipped a year in their budget planning, which could mean a loss of billions of dollars towards a bunch of different programs.  In the most predictable fashion ever, the NDP claim that there is no mistake, while the Liberals insist that there is.  So far, I have unable such a publication.  I’m sure it exists–and that it is genuine–but if I can’t fact-check it myself, I don’t feel like an informed voter.

Despite an hour of thorough, internet research, I do not feel like an informed voter on this matter

vote test

In my opinion, the NDP have not been good publishing their stats.  Instead of publishing the paper that Liberals has a mistake in it–so voters can see the if the Liberal claim is truthfully wrong–the NDP insist there is no mistake.  While Andrea Horwath criticized Kathleen Wynne’s barbaric decision to cut Autism funding, she has released no figures on her own Autism funding to counter Wynne’s current promise of $533 million dollars.  If she has, then newspapers aren’t reporting it, and the NDP didn’t mention it in their own newsletter.  It’s enough to make my head spin.

Who I am voting for?

Originally, I was going for Kathleen, although that was far from an easy choice. Her previous, drastic cut to the Autism budget proves to me she doesn’t  care about people like me, or the parents who work their asses off to try and support their children.  She didn’t care for the multiple years that parents were protesting her choices, until it became clear that those parents were making up a not insignificant number of the voting populace.  Then, she finally did something good, not for the people, but for herself.  And you know what.  The Liberal autism plan is much more solid–and realistic–than whatever the NDP was vaguely hinting  at, and Doug Ford certainly isn’t in a hurry to fund therapy for a group of people he called “criminals”. However, I’m not going Liberal.

The big issue in this election is beating Ford. Sadly, he’s leading in the polls. I think both die-hard NDP and strict Liberals would agree that it’s better if one or the other got elected instead of Ford’s PC. So far, the NDP are more likely to win than the Liberals, so they’re a better shot. As a voter, don’t feel like I should be selfish: even if the liberals suit my interests better, its better for everybody if the NDP best Ford. Selfish voting is how we got assholes like Trump and Doug in the first place, in my personal opinion.

vote matters

Isn’t Autism just one issue, and there’s a whole bunch of other things to consider before making the final choice of who one should vote for

Yes, that is true.  I am not voting simply based on Autism, and I want a leader who will help all of my fellow citizens the best.  If I felt like the NDP were better for everybody, even if they weren’t as good for my own people, I’d vote NDP.  Which means that–to be an informed voter–I’m going to have to sift through even more newspaper articles, vague promises from politicians and continually fight to separate fact from an unsubstantiated statement.

And that’s why, at 19 years of age, I already hate politics.

My sources…

…about Wynne’s old policy of cutting Autism funding

1, Jones, A., Ontario kids with autism aged 5 and older cut off from government-paid therapy, [2016, April 5th], retrieved 2018, May 15th, CBC, http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/toronto/ontario-kids-autism-1.3522492

2, Jones, A., Ontario launches new autism program; practitioners to be regulated, [2017, June 8th], Global News, retrieved 2018, May 15th, https://globalnews.ca/news/3511764/ontario-autism-program/

…about Wynne’s new policy which backtracks her old decision

3, Jones, A., Ontario autism program will soon include direct funding as option, [2017, May 18th], The Toronto Star, https://www.thestar.com/news/queenspark/2017/05/18/ontario-autism-program-will-soon-include-direct-funding-as-option.html

…about why Doug Ford is a crass, ignorant douchebag

4, Doug Ford defends comments about new ‘nightmare’ youth group home in Toronto, [2014, May 18th], The National Post, retrieved 2018, May 15th, http://nationalpost.com/news/bob-rae-blasts-toronto-councillor-doug-ford-for-saying-new-group-home-ruined-community

5, City, D. D., ‘Go to hell’, Doug Ford tells autistic son’s dad after integrity complaint, [2014, July 4th], The Toronto Star, https://www.thestar.com/news/city_hall/toronto2014election/2014/07/04/go_to_hell_doug_ford_tells_autistic_sons_dad_after_making_integrity_complaint.html

…the NDP’s own information on their Autism plans, that they told voters

6, IT’S ABOUT CHANGE, IT’S ABOUT YOU, (page 30), [2017], retrieved 2018, May 15th, https://www.ontariondp.ca/sites/default/files/VisionDoc-ENG-111517.pdf

…the NDP [Possibly!] made a huge mistake in their budget planning

7, Benzie, R., Rushowy, K., NDP platform crafted on a ‘major mistake’ taht means at least $3B in cuts, Liberals say, [2018, May 14th], The Toronto Star, retrieved 2018, May 15th, https://www.thestar.com/news/queenspark/2018/05/14/ndp-platform-crafted-on-a-major-mistake-that-means-at-least-3b-in-cuts-liberals-say.html

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My trip to the Ohio NIRSA Competition

 

 

 

 

ohio state uniformIn my last post, I mentioned the various  big events I was going to this  year.  One of  them was a big Unified basketball tournament held in Columbus, Ohio.  At time of writing, I just got back yesterday.  Without any further  ado, here’s my story.

 

The Rundown: what is a Unified Team?  Special Olympics, in the last two or three years, has been putting in a lot of  hard work into  making what they call “Unified” teams to compete against each other.  Essentially, a Unified Team is made up of different people chosen to represent their city, country, or–in this case–home town’s university.  The team members are a unified mix of Special  Olympic “Athletes” and “Partners” who are what you would either call “normal or, to use a word that a lot of Autistics use, “neuro-typical”. This was my third  time on a Unified Team, last year I’d also been both on one for the MLS All Star Games and for a tournament against Montreal’s Unified Team .  Those were  both  in soccer, this was my first  time in basketball.

NIRSA 2018

More Rundowns: what kind of tournament was this?  So, in the United States and Canada, college and university sports are a big deal.  Aside from the usual scholarships and team rivalries, many college ballers play for their careers, hoping  that they’ll be drafted by the NBA.  However, many people who go to university don’t want to try and do that–or don’t  have  the ability–but they still want to play competitive sports.  That’s what Intra-mural teams are for.  NIRSA  is an organization that holds official competitions for this league, as University teams from across the country play together in much the same way you’d see with NCAA College Ball.

 

 

Final Rundown: what position do I play?  I play center: the big guy near the basket.  While I can hit layups–and did score a few buckets during the tournament–my primary job is a jack-of-all-trades support role for my teammates.  I play a lot of defense, grab the rebounds, pass to the guys who are good ball handlers and set up screens for them to get an open lane.  For those who don’t know what a screen is, it’s basically when you run up to the defender and stand as a brick wall beside them, so your teammate can dribble on past them.  Screens were something that one of my regular coaches really wanted me to work on, and use often during the tournament.  I also tend to talk–and yell–a lot on the court, to communicate with my teammates.  My coaches like it when I do that too.

ohio screen

 

For our Unified Tournament, Intra-mural players joined with Special Olympic athletes to represent their university.  My team played for the University of Toronto.  There were 6 Special Olympians, 5 Partners, 2 coaches from SO, and one from the U of T.  Oddly, 4 of us athletes play on the same Special Olympic team together, and all of us knew one of the other athletes as well [he was also my teammate for the Unified Soccer Team].  Also, the two SO coaches were also chosen from my team as  well.  Going on trips like these, one of the the best things about it is meeting new people.  However, it’s also really cool going with people you’re already close too.  This trip had a nice mix of both.

ohio state unified team

Because our Unified team was kinda given the OK at the last minute, we only had 2 practices together before the big weekend.  That sounds like it would have been really daunting, but it actually worked out.  I couldn’t ask for better coaches: if it weren’t for two of the men leading us during those practices, I wouldn’t have been anywhere near able to go to this tournament.  It was the previous years of work  they put into me and countless other athletes–long before any of us knew that Unified teams were even a thing–that made me as good at basketball as I am today.  But it’s more than that.  I think it’s best summed up by an inspiration message I read, that was written on a white board inside my Tae Kwon Do class.

“A good coach can change a game. A great coach can change a life.”

Even though most of us  only knew each other for two practices, it felt like we had been together a lot longer than that.  We were friendly, casual, and understood how each other played.  Our team had a real, natural chemistry.  It takes a special kind of coaching to make that happen, in such a short time.

on the bus

Excited at 6am to be going to Ohio

Our first game was on the Friday, the same day that we had to leave for Columbus.  The whole trip was going to take around eight hours, and the schedule was pretty tight for when we got there [lunch and then the game].  I’m used to long bus trips because I regularly go on them to visit my family in Montreal, so I made sure to bring plenty of food and entertainment.  I didn’t actually get bored  on the trip, and I also spent a lot of time with on my friends as well.  The Ohio countryside is really scenic.

What was Columbus like [to me]?

Columbus is beautiful.  And the campus is Huge, with a capital H.  They literally have their own, separate bus network to transport people across the university.  That sounds frivolous and unnecessary, but it’s not.  Architecturally, it gives off similar vibes to both the old-fashioned University of Toronto, and the modern Ryerson campus.  Columbus itself is a lot like Chicago, but smaller.  The people are like what Americans think Canadians are like: super friendly.

ohio state football stadium

The stadium on campus where college football is played

[We’re politer than most, but we’re not that friendly.  Especially not in Toronto]

Before any of us even got there, I and the people from my regular SO team knew that this was going to be the toughest game we’ve had yet.  Frankly, there’s something wrong about our paperwork, and my local Toronto team has been put into a division where we beat other Ontario teams too easily.  To the point that it’s not fair for either team.  The hardest game we had before the Ohio tournament was an exhibition  match against a team from a division higher than our own, and we still beat them [but it was close].  Even though I knew it was going to be hard, I was looking forward to the competition.  Precisely because I knew it was going to be hard, and I was going to be in fair games against people who could beat us.

ohio defence

I was right.  Even the divisioning round was fast-paced and competitive.   The rules were as stringent as ever, basically full NBA rules.  In the first couple minutes, I’d gotten 2 fouls for having my arms too far down on defense.  You foul out at 5.  The third foul I got was a complete accident: I tried to keep my arms up, but as soon as the guy came running at me, they came down as a reflex I didn’t even control.  Coach benched me because he said that he didn’t want me to lose me in this game.  The first half ended almost tied; a lot of the other team’s points came from free throws.  I was very disappointed in myself for making such bad fouls.

The second half, I got better.  I played defense with my arms high in the sky, which was something I never really had to do before.  I got a couple shots in, and set up even more  screens, rebounds and assists.  I got one more foul–another reflex I couldn’t control–but that was it.  We won our divisioning round, and I got over the disappointment I had in myself for the first half. We left the venue to go get some much needed sleep.

Our hotel rooms were, in a word, luxurious.  The Hilton is a pretty decent place, after all.  From experience, they really like to hook us up whenever we go on these big Unified  trips.  I’m pretty okay with that.  It was also nice because my roommate was one of the guys I  already  knew.

ohio state view from hotel

view from my window

Our next game was in the late-morning.  After a fresh-cooked breakfast served by the hotel [also luxurious] we got on the shuttle bus and readied ourselves.  I feel like I played better the second game.  Got less fouls, and made sure I kept my arms up.  I also did everything my coach wanted: rebounds, assists, screens and made sure nobody drove by me.  All of my teammates played equally well, and I could tell that the U of T guys were working  really hard on the court.  Still, we lost that game.

It was kind of a serene loss for me.  Coach had been making sure that his athletes had “mental toughness”, and I’ve never been a sore loser, so anger wasn’t an issue.  The weird thing was that I couldn’t think of anything I did wrong.  Usually, whenever I lose–or fail at something–there’s always something I should have done that I beat myself up over.  But this game… that didn’t happen.  They just got in a couple shots more than us, and I played my best.

I was actually kind of glad that we lost a game. Remember earlier, when I said that my regular Toronto team has been placed in the wrong division, and are unfairly mismatched against the local teams?  Well, this first division round game proved to me that the Ohio tournament, in fact, was a perfect match for us.  The games were indeed,  very fair.  Our next game was the second round of the division prior to the  the semi-finals.  To put it another way: if we wanted  to play more games on Sunday, we had to win this one.  Yeah.  The pressure just went up.

Fortunately, there was plenty of time to rest up before that game.  The U of T Unified I Team enjoyed a relaxing sandwich lunch outside, in the beautiful Ohio weather.  After that, some of my fellow Special Olympians went to the 3-point contest, which I didn’t enter because I don’t shoot well, in general.  I wanted to go, but unfortunately there wasn’t enough room on the bus to bring an audience.  I heard that most of my friends did well, and the one guy scored 0 points took it very well.

While the guys were making it splash on the court, I stayed by myself in the hotel room, gathering my energy by laying in bed watching the HD flatscreen.  A few long, peaceful hours later, it was time to go back and play ball.

ohio state warmup

Another thing that’s great about my coaches is that they make sure we work hard.  They never let us take it easy, even during warm up.  That actually does make things  easier in  the long  run, because it means that our warmup has us pumped up with our heads in the zone.  At this point, I just sort of figured that I was going to play starter in every game [I did], so it made warmup kind of odd and even more intense.  I knew that, as soon as it was  done, I would be out hustling on the floor.  Honestly, I think that helped me.

My nerves didn’t have time to decompress and slow down while  on the bench, and when I finally did get called off the court, enough adrenaline was flowing that I kept at the ready.  One thing I really enjoyed is that, somehow, I always felt “in the zone” during every game.  I don’t know why that was exactly, but it’s one of the  reasons I started doing sports in the first place.  Focusing like that keeps my head quiet.

ohio state layup

Oh, did I mention that we won the semi-finals?  We got to play more games on Sunday.

In the evening, we were scheduled to have a party, where people from all over the States got to meet up, socialize and get to know each other.  Like I said, one of the best things about these kinds of trips.  But, there was still some time to kill before the party, which started at eight.  So, about I joined about over half of my Unified Team in touring Columbus, looking for a book store to find merchandise in.

A lot of the campus is filled with vast, forested park lands.  And because Ohio is a bit further south than Ontario, their grass was already green and the weather was perfect.  Walking through Columbus made for another relaxing moment in between the intense games we played in.

Our party was a lot of fun.  Special Olympic parties are always a lot of fun.  Games, pizza, interesting people, everything.  It was a cool hour and half of everybody celebrating what an awesome weekend we were having.  I went to bed in a good mood.

The next day, we had another semi-finals.  Same deal as before: if we lost, it would’ve been our last game.  This time, the U of T guys really came through for us.  They talked with us, and gave really helpful advice.  Not as superiors, but as equals.  You could tell they valued what we brought to the table, and saw us kind of like brothers: no different from them.  My coach said that, in his eyes, there was no “Unified Team”, because there we weren’t two different things to unify.  We were a group of guys, playing hard and working together.  I’m glad to have met so many normal people–close to my own age–who see things like that.  Makes me think that there are a lot of neuro-typicals like them our there, more than I may have realized.

ohio rebound

We were up against the same team that we beat in the first seating round.  You could tell that they were really playing to  win, and played the scoreboard was even closer than last time.  But us U of T players learned a lot over the weekend.  One of the Athletes learned how to do man on man defense.  Some of the others learned whether or not they could shoot 3’s in a game.  I learned how to defend without getting fouls.  We made it to finals.

The finals were held in a new court, fancier looking than the previous.  We played 20 minutes after the last game, but  I don’t think any of us were tired.  For finals, we went up against a team that posed a new challenge.  They didn’t really attack us in the paint–near the basket–but a lot of them were  really skilled at sinking 3-pointers.  It was something new to defend against.  But, like I said, my team had a really good rapport, despite not knowing  each other for that long.  The score was mighty close the entire game, until the last minute that we manged to squeak by a 5-point lead.  We won the finals. We won the National Championships.

ohio state unified winners

I’m still wrapping my head around that, actually.   I remember a lot of things about the weekend.  I remember some of the conversations I’ve had, the people I met, certain things that happened in the  games.  I remember getting to cut down the net from the basket, which is apparently a tradition for the winning team.

ohio state cutting the net

I remember one of my coaches playing “We Are The Champions” on the bus ride home.  I remember everyone on the bus being really tired, and quietly content the whole ride home.  I remember thinking about how, years ago, I was hoping to one day make it to a big, national-level basketball game, and suddenly finding myself on the court–during finals–on defense.

Thank you.  Thank you a thousand times to all the incredible people–from Special Olympics, the various universities, and so forth, who made this possible.  Thank you to the incredible Chris from SO who accompanied us on the entire trip and made sure that our schedule was organized, paid for all of our food and worked through the entire weekend to make sure we were having the best time possible.  Thank you to the U of T athletes who took time off [during EXAMS!] to try something new and play with some guys from Special Olympics.  And, of course, thank you to the awesome coaches that have trained me and my friends for years, and got to come with us for the ride when that training really paid off.

ohio state champ

Thank you.

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Lesson 15: Task 4: What do I believe in?

To all my normal readers, this is part of a school project for my high school correspondence course.  I covered the details of it in “What are the “Lesson 15″ posts?”, if you want more information.  These posts are different from my normal blog–both in content and tone–but I decided to keep them here for posterity.  I am still working on my normal uploads.

To my teacher, I decided to include an excerpt of the Key Question before answering it, just like I normally do in the the other Key Questions I’ve sent you.  I hope that doesn’t violate ILC’s privacy in anyway.  If it does, please notify me and I’ll delete the passage containing the ILC’s Key Question.  Also, all of my cited sources are included in the bottom of the post.

For your final blog entry, you will be writing an opinion piece on one of the topics explored in “Which policies are best for schools?” in this lesson. You must choose between dress code, suspensions, or restorative justice. You must title your blog entry “Lesson 15, Task 4: What do I believe in?” You will construct a well-written opinion piece with an introduction, body, and conclusion. You will state your argument in the introduction, and the three supporting points that you listed in the document mentioned above will be expanded on in the body. Finally, you will sum up your opinion in the conclusion. Your opinion piece should be between 500–750 words.

My Answer

Suspensions have long been used by public schools as a means of punishing misbehaving students. The principle is simple: if someone misbehaves in school, they are temporarily barred from coming to class.  In America, the maximum days for suspension is 10 [13].  However, if the student acted violently or committed a crime on school property, then they are expelled: suspended for a over of 10 days , not under [13].  In Ontario: suspension can go up to 20 days [15].  Theoretically, this process sounds like it should be effective.  In reality, it has several problems. Minority students are overly targeted for suspension, especially students who are black and/or disabled.   Furthermore, suspension has not been shown to improve student behaviour, instead, it hurts their academic future.  Lastly, schools are currently finding other ways to fix deviant student behaviour, that do not involved denying them access to learning.

iscs-infographic_suspensions-expulsions-by-race

image courtesy of American Institutes for Research

  First, let us examine statistical, demographic data: to see which types of students are affected by it the most.  In America, black students from Kindergarten to Grade 12 are disproportionately suspended [3] [5]. They are 3.8 times more likely to be suspended compared to white students [2].  Put into different terms, black students make up 24% of America’s student body, and up to 48% of those who are suspended [5]. It must be made clear: this is not because of minority students behaving differently [10].  The bias could–at least partially–be explained by negative associations some teachers may have towards black students [3].  However, it is not just the black student body that has problems with frequent suspension.  In 235 American charter schools, half of their disabled students were suspended in 2016 [9] [11].  Between 2009 and 2010, one quarter of black, disabled students were suspended [10]. Even excluding minority groups, students have also been suspended for minor infractions, such as dress code violations [7]. 

suspension

image courtesy of AL.com

Despite all this, arguments could still be made in favour of school suspension.  If suspension works as a punishment–that gets students back on track with their studies–then it should still be used.  A study done by the “UCLA Center for Civil Rights Remedies” debunks this idea.  According to the UCLA suspensions actually harm students [4]. Specifically, suspension is correlated to lower graduation rates, less achievements made by students, and an increased likelihood that they will commit criminal activity in the future [4] [10] [11]. Consequently, suspension policies have been derided as the “school-to-prison pipeline”, by those who see it as a system that takes young adults out of education and puts them into a life of crime [10 [11]. Because high school dropouts typically make less money, they also pay less taxes, are less productive, and more likely to require extra healthcare. 

high school dropout

image courtesy of Alliance for Excellent Education

With this in mind UCLA calculated that the combined number of school dropouts–caused by suspension–are costing American tax-payers $35 Billion dollars [2] [4].  Fortunately, suspensions are not necessary, and schools are finding alternative ways to treat misbehaving students. To quote the U.S. Department of Education, “Creating a supportive school climate—and decreasing suspensions and expulsions—requires close attention to the social, emotional, and behavioral needs of all students” [14]. Because giving children a day off school is not really a form of punishment for them, some schools have started giving them detention on Saturday instead [1]. Likewise, in Ontario schools, students are still educated during their suspension days, either by having to complete homework packages, or attending counseling sessions to improve their future behaviour [15]. In this light, Ontario suspension is not as harmful as American suspension, because Ontario students are still educated and guided by adults.  Counseling has caught on in American school districts too—including those of Los Angeles and Chicago—where the goal is to keep law breaking students in school, so that they are off the streets [6].  Giving students techniques to cope with stress in class has reduced the amount of continued misdeeds—and therefore—the amount of suspensions as well. The less suspensions these schools had, the higher their test scores were [11] [16].

In conclusion, there are multiple reasons that suspension is an ill-suited method of correcting student behaviour. First of all, suspension is disproportionately doled out to students who are of colour and/or disabled, in a way not explained by supposed cultural differences between minorities. Secondly, suspension hurts a student’s academic success, making them less likely to graduate and more likely to drop out. Finally, many schools across the U.S.—and in Ontario—have found that counselling students and finding ways to improve their behaviour yields longer-term results than temporary suspension.  The facts are clear: the less that schools suspend their students, the better they do both in class, and later in life [4] [6] [10] [11] [12] [16].

 

Sources

1, Ferguson, C. J., Does Suspending Students Work?, [2012, Dec 5th], Time Magazine, retrieved 2018, Feb 6th, http://ideas.time.com/2012/12/05/does-suspending-students-work/

2, Toppo, G., Black students nearly 4x as likely to be suspended, [2016, June 7th], USA Today, retrieved 2018, Feb 6th, https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/2016/06/07/black-students-nearly-4x-likely-suspended/85526458/

3, Rich, M., Analysis Finds Higher Expulsion Rates for Black Students, [2015, Aug 24th], The New York Times, retrieved 2018, Feb 6th, https://www.nytimes.com/2015/08/25/us/higher-expulsion-rates-for-black-students-are-found.html

4, Klein, R., The Education Practice That Is Costing Taxpayers Billions Of Dollars,[2016, Feb 6th], Huffington Post, retrieved 2018, June 2nd, http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/entry/school-suspension-money_us_574efcbae4b0ed593f12dd4b

5, Smith, E. J., Harper, S. R., DISPROPORTIONATE IMPACT OF K-12 SCHOOL SUSPENSION AND EXPULSION ON BLACK STUDENTS IN SOUTHERN STATES, [2015], Penn GSE, Center for the Study of Race and Equality in Education, retrieved 2018, Feb 7th, https://equity.gse.upenn.edu/sites/default/files/publications/Smith_Harper_Report.pdf

6, Alverez, L., Seeing the Toll, Schools Revise Zero Tolerance, [2013, Dec 2nd], The New York Times, retrieved 2018, Feb 7th, http://www.nytimes.com/2013/12/03/education/seeing-the-toll-schools-revisit-zero-tolerance.html?pagewanted=all

7, More Than 160 Texas Students Suspended For Dress Code Violations, [2014, May 15th], NBC News, retrieved 2017, Feb 7th, https://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/more-160-texas-students-suspended-dress-code-violations-n106661

8, Rich, M., Suspensions Are Higher For Disabled Students, Federal Data Indicate, [2012, Aug 8th], The New York Times, retrieved 2018, Feb 7th, http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9502E7DD1139F93BA3575BC0A9649D8B63

9, Heasley, S., Students With Disabilities Suspended More Often At Charters, [2016, March 25th], Disability Scoop, retrieved 2018, Feb 7th, https://www.disabilityscoop.com/2016/03/25/students-suspended-charters/22090/

10, Removits, J, Yes, Schools Do Discriminate Against Students Of Color – Reports, [2014, Feb 13th], Huffington Post, retrieved 2018, Feb 7th, http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/entry/school-discipline-race_n_4952322

11, Camera, L., Charter Schools Propping Up the School-to-Prison Pipeline, [2016, March 17th], US News, retrieved 2018, Feb 7th, https://www.usnews.com/news/articles/2016-03-17/study-charter-schools-suspend-more-black-students-disabled-students

12, The Impact of School Suspensions, and a Demand for Passage of the Student Safety Act, [2008, Jan 23rd], New York Civil Liberties Union, retrieved 2018, Feb 7th, https://www.nyclu.org/en/publications/impact-school-suspensions-and-demand-passage-student-safety-act

13, Suspension and Explusion, Kids Legal, retrieved 2018, Feb 7th, https://www.kidslegal.org/suspension-and-expulsionhttps://www.kidslegal.org/suspension-and-expulsion

14, Rethinking Discipline, The U.S. Department of Education, retrieved 2018, Feb 9th, https://www2.ed.gov/policy/gen/guid/school-discipline/index.html

15, Suspension: What Parents Need To Know, [2009], Queen’s Printer for Ontario, retrieved 2018, Feb 9th, http://www.edu.gov.on.ca/eng/safeschools/NeedtoKnowSusp.pdf

16, Rosenblat, J., Schools Hope Changes in Policy Will Bridge the ‘Discipline Gap’, [2017, March 17th], U.S. News, retrieved 2018, Feb 9th, https://www.usnews.com/news/articles/2015/03/17/schools-hope-changes-in-policy-will-bridge-the-discipline-gap

 

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