This guest blog post is from 2018 Team Missouri athlete-leader Allison D’Agostino (public relations assistant). It was originally written on her personal blog and re-posted here with her permission. It has been edited by SOMO for content and length.
It hasn’t even been a full week into May and already there’s something to say about Special Olympics – about all the athletes, and even those who aren’t IN Special Olympics, but who have disabilities. Today, I received a call from my boss about certain issues that occurred this year. One of which consisted complaints from certain athletes about a question I asked them in my interviews. The question was, “What is your disability?”
To be honest, I tend to react before I think. It’s been a gift and a curse my entire life. Lately, it’s been more of a curse. I don’t know how to fix it. Because I’m a PR Assistant for Team Missouri, this “react before thinking” has repercussions to Special Olympics, its image and mine as well. I tend to embrace everything about myself, including my flaws. Even though, at times, I wish I didn’t have those flaws.
When I asked these athletes that question – “What is your disability?” – I didn’t consider their feelings. Which I find that odd, because I normally respect people’s privacy despite my nosy curiosity. I thought they would want to inform the viewers what their disability is and how it’s affected their life.
Looking back on my time growing up, it’s hard for me to remember if people really bullied me because of my disability. Nobody really knew about my disability unless I brought it up. When I spoke about this issue of the question, “What is your disability?” to my mother, she explained to me that not everyone is comfortable talking about their disability and embracing it like I do. I am fully aware of that, and I have to constantly remind myself not to ask those who are disabled this exact question.
I was raised to respect people – no matter their physical appearance or mental issue. I may not always remember to do so, but if and when I am reminded, I make sure to back off and apologize. In a way, this blog is an apology to those athletes I’ve asked that question, “What is your disability?”
I want to remind you, though. You don’t need to be embarrassed about your disability. It is what makes you unique and true to yourself. If you see any flaws or skills that come from that disability, don’t hide them, but embrace them. You can use those flaws and skills to your advantage. Teach people what you can and cannot do. Inform someone what you’re passionate and not passionate about. Improve on those flaws and skills. This helps you get up off the ground with pride and confidence. Someday, you’ll be able to tell someone, “Yes, I did that. I may not have been THE best, but I was MY best. And I’ve improved since then.”
That’s when you’re truly living the Special Olympics Athlete’s Oath outside of sports and in real life.