Sarah Stultz: People of all abilities in this world have value

Published 8:45 pm Tuesday, May 2, 2023

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As the mother of a child with a developmental disability, sometimes worries creep into my mind about what will happen to my child once he’s done with school, out in the real world, so to speak.

These thoughts resurfaced this weekend when my husband and I watched “Champions,” a movie about a minor-league basketball coach who is sentenced to community service coaching a team of players with intellectual disabilities after a drunken driving arrest.

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While at first the coach doesn’t know what he has gotten himself into, he soon grows to love the players and his new role as their coach.

As I watched the movie, I saw my son, Landon, in several of the players.

Landon loves basketball just like these young adults did in the movie, but what I was also interested in was what these players did when they were not in the gym playing basketball.

One player worked at a restaurant, another rode his scooter across town to and from practice, and a few of the players lived together in a group home.

They were thriving — though in a different sense than what we may normally think.

Though these players couldn’t drive a car or live on their own, they didn’t seem to be bothered by that, and I was impressed by their mostly positive attitudes toward life.

It gave me hope to the future as Landon gets older, and I am grateful for the opportunities available in our community for people with disabilities.

The movie also highlighted a lot of lesser-talked about truths in the world, including the weight that families of people with intellectual disabilities feel, as well as showcasing the misconceptions and sometimes rude behaviors that these individuals face often in the world. It was disheartening and reminded me of the need to teach more tolerance and acceptance of everyone — despite their abilities, appearances or differences.

Despite the judgments people with disabilities face, the movie also reminded me just how precious these people can be.

Will my son grow up to be a doctor or engineer? Probably not, but he will have an important role in society in his own way.

And I’m proud to see my forever champion grow and learn.

Sarah Stultz is the managing editor of the Tribune. Her column appears every Wednesday.