Reporters Often Miss the Bigger Picture
|Track and Field Event|
After she described the program, I informed her that I had not heard of it but that its existence didn't surprise me, because many parents who have a child with a disability often have to develop their own programs to allow them to remain socially engaged with other children in the community. Many of these parents spend their own time and money helping to create hybrid sports and recreation programs for their children in areas where there are none. It's an amazing level of dedication.
The reporter seemed very surprised and even disappointed that I had not heard of the program. I asked her for some more information and she directed me to a website where there were a couple of lines about the program but nothing in enough detail to allow me to comment on its depth, scope, and popularity. I tried redirecting her to the bigger issue at hand, which is that most sports and recreation communities do not recognize the needs of youth with disabilities and that the higher levels of obesity reported among these youth will create health problems in adulthood. Unfortunately, she didn't seem to be as interested in that topic as in writing about this particular program that she claimed is growing rapidly across America.
While I don't doubt that this reporter's story was certainly worthy of the attention it was receiving, of equal importance is the need for reporters to understand that every sports and recreation program offered in any community should have an element of inclusion. This should not be at the expense of growing specialized programs for youth with disabilities but rather, as an adjunct to them. Any parent should be able to select the program that best meets their child's interest level and needs.
At the end of our conversation, I reiterated my earlier comment that using person-first terminology will go a long way toward educating her readers that separating the 'special needs' part from the child keeps everyone in the fold and removes the 'helplessness' part of that description. Words can make a big difference in how we treat others. She requested a copy of the article we just published on obesity levels of youth with disabilities, so hopefully, she'll consider the bigger picture as a backdrop to her story.