Boy couldn’t walk when he started the Special Olympics Young Athletes programme at the Lamphun Special Education Centre two years ago, his mother told us. Now almost ten, he’s walking, running and can ride a bike. Boy also focuses better, is less temperamental and plays well with the other children in his neighbourhood. Inclusion—children with and without intellectual disabilities playing together—is a major goal of the Young Athletes programme.
Run, who does not have an intellectual disability, goes to a childcare centre next to the Lamphun Special Education Centre, and visits with her class for three hours every Monday. Her mother, Applen, explained that she has always taught her daughter to accept everyone. Run’s teacher added that working with the Young Athletes helped her develop programmes to better meet the needs of two children with ID in her preschool class. Inclusion is better for everyone.
Neighbourhood children with and without intellectual disabilities play together after school and on weekends in the area in front of Peem’s family shop. Peem’s great uncle has made a variety of wooden and bamboo equipment and a basketball hoop (Peem’s favourite), so he can work on his Young Athletes training activities at home. When we visit, Peem and five other children from the local school (two with intellectual disabilities and three without) have come together for a more formal demonstration of their skills, for our benefit.
Peem and his elder aunt go to the Lamphun Special Education Centre one day each week. Peem goes to the small local school (80 students) four days a week. The four students with intellectual disabilities at Peem’s school are integrated into mainstream classes when possible. At other times, they are taught by their own special needs teacher, who uses the Lamphun Centre curriculum.