Should We Let Special Needs Kids Win?

young boys in uniform watching their team while playing footballA few weeks ago there was a sweet story about an undefeated high school senior wrestler named Deven who had a match against a student with Downs Syndrome named Andy and let him win. The media was making the senior out to be a hero, but the story bothered me. In the article the senior talks about how his opponent had good moves,and even the school coach complimented Andy’s wrestling skills, but all the headlines made a big deal about how he lost on purpose. I even asked a friend who has a child with this specific special need about it, and she agreed that the boy with Downs Syndrome didn’t need to be handed a victory – yes, it was sweet of the senior but Andy might have preferred an honest match. In the article the coach says that Deven did the right thing. I disagree, and so does my friend. It sounds like Deven did Andy a favor – Andy doesn’t need any favors, according to the article he is strong and tough. Some of the articles about the match make it seem more like Andy won a legitimate victory, and I hope that is true because he has an impressive record.

My son is on a sports team with both typical and special needs kids, but his school is an exception so most of the teams they take on are all neurotypical (i.e. not on the autism spectrum – or typical). I have to admit, it bothers me when our team gets slaughtered. It does seem like we deserve some kind of scoring advantage because of the challenges some of our players are handling…but then sometimes our team wins, and the victory is twice as sweet!

So, ask yourself – how much pity do you have for individuals with special needs? Do they deserve it? Or do they deserve to be treated as individuals, and equals?


Editor’s Note: Something to consider… perhaps you don’t consider it “pity”. Perhaps you consider it “being supportive” or “leveling the playing field”. The question remains the same and is just as difficult to answer: “should special needs kids be given preferential treatment when it comes to competitive sports or should they be treated as equals?”

About the Author

Rosie Reeves is a writer and mother of three; including one with special needs. She works side-by-side with her daughter’s therapists, teachers and doctors. Rosie has also served as the Los Angeles Special Needs Kids Examiner. She can be reached at Rosie is a member of the PedSafe Expert team


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