I’m sure you have seen the videos that have been popping up, slightly more frequently in recent years: some student with a disability making an amazing shot in basketball, because the coach told him to suit up for the last game of the season, or the boy with autism who was voted Homecoming King, or the many others that are out there. You can often hear the crowd chanting the person’s name, and screaming wildly when the shot is made, or the name is announced.
My kid is a bit of a celebrity at his school. Everyone seems to know his name: students, parents, even kids who are older and in middle school who live in the neighborhood. We go somewhere in town, and someone says hi to him and calls him by name, and I have no idea who it is, and many times, neither does he. He’s a celebrity, partly because they have such good programs to “initiate” the general ed kids into what their ASD classmates are experiencing, and I think partly because he’s a “6th year” student at his school, having attended the same school all the way through elementary. The longer you stay in one place, the more people with whom you come in contact. That’s my theory, anyway.
But, I watch these videos, and I wonder. I wonder if this “celebrity” is an entirely good thing. I wonder if it would be even better if there was no news story, because it would be a matter of course for someone with a disability to win Homecoming King. It would be a matter of course for kids with disabilities to compete in sports, perform in music programs, do whatever it is that typical kids do, and do it well. And it would be a matter of course for our kids to have friends, rather than fans.
Until that day, I will continue to share these videos and spread the hope that they bring, because they do leave me hopeful, if not entirely satisfied. I am always proud of the person in question, but I am so hopeful for those kids who are “fans” of the person in question. I am hopeful that someday (if they haven’t already), they will realize that this person is real, and not a character. A potential friend, rather than a celebrity.