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Friday, September 27, 2013

When Young People "Get it Right" and Adults Need Help

This Texas School District Needs Help and Perhaps, the Perfect Game is the answer.

A Texas school district decides that a cheerleader with Down's Syndrome can no longer cheer with her squad because she is a liability.  No matter that she has been cheering for several years; no matter that she's accepted and has been part of the team since seventh grade.  A ball might hit her, that's a liability.  I guess a non-Down's child can't possibly get hurt by a misdirect ball.  Or a fan -- um, wonder how it happens that they think a Down's child will automatically attract a ball and get hurt by it.  I know the situation is more complicated than that but in the end there is little justification for this kind of bullying of a student who has worked hard to be part of a group. To have school officials take away from the cheer squad and from the cheerleader is just wrong.  Oh yes, she can be an honorary member of the squad -- she just can't cheer.  Okay, she can pretend that she is a real cheerleader -- that's very satisfying -- great way to include her.  NOT.   This cheerleader team (before the misguided interference from school personnel) was integrating their ranks and including an athlete who would have normally been relegated to a "special" cheer team.  Kudos to the young women who were so accepting and forward thinking.  And a pox on the school coach (and administrators) who aren't handling this too well. Perhaps it would benefit the school officials/coach to read this new book by Fred Bowen and they might see the great benefits that come from being inclusive of all people, "special" or not.  Not to mention that being inclusive is simply the right thing to do.


Perfect Game by Fred Bowen

Several years ago Fred Bowen, an author who writes wonderful sports stories, began writing a story about a baseball player who could not settle for less than perfection.  And then that player was invited to play with a mix of players—some from his regular team and some from a Special Olympics team.  Isaac's idea of perfect is challenged when he meets a special member of the team.  Bowen couldn't get that story quite right when he first tried writing it.  The book sat unfinished/unpublished for over 10 years.  In the past year or two he began to think about the situation again.  He decided he wanted to revisit the story and that more research would be needed.  He did that research.  And rewrote the book. On his website Bowen tells of his weekend research.   He spent weekend days watching Special Olympics Unified Sports teams practice and compete in the gyms at Blessed Sacrament School in Washington, DC, and Landon School in Bethesda, Maryland. That research made a big difference and in 2013 the book was released.

The end result is a book that will intrigue those who love sports stories — and even though many will view this as a "boy" book there is always a strong female character that serves to balance the gender issue; and while Bowen's books do attract male readers, female readers enjoy his books equally.  The "Real Story," a chapter always appended at the end of the book gives readers a non-fiction tie to the information weaved into the story itself. 
Readers will be able to learn much about the "X" syndrome and about the work being done by the Special Olympics and their initiative to create Special Olympics Unified Sports teams.

Kudos to Fred Bowen who already knows what the Texas school personnel needs to learn.

Fred Bowen's website has a great page featuring many resources, for Perfect Game,  for teachers/librarians <>.  The page provides links to several study guides for the book and links to sites dealing with exterminating the "R" word.   Browse Bowen's website to learn more about him and his writing.  One of my favorite books is a departure of sorts from his middle grade fiction novels (each with a "Real Story" chapter).  The book is a picture book biography (for fans of all ages who enjoys baseball) about the legendary Ted Williams and the last 400 season.  I'm sure your students will find several favorites among Bowen's books.

ABC News.  "Cheerleader With Down Syndrome Sidelined for Safety Reasons."

Bowen, Fred. "Perfect Game - Fred Bowen." (WEB)

Bowen, Fred.  "Home - Fred Bowen."  (WEB) 


  1. Thank you for calling attention to the treatment of the young cheerleader in Texas. I also grew up "different" in Texas and know what it was like to face exclusion as a result. Although I had the highest grade point average in my high school, I was not allowed to give the speech as valedictorian because school officials believed I would say something "inappropriate." That year, the speech was given by the girl with the next highest average--a well-liked student who was given the designation of "most representative student."

  2. Lynn - how heartbreaking.
    I once heard/read a story about Charles Proteus Steinmetz that read very similarly to yours -- he was denied the opportunity to give the high school graduation speech, in his case, because of his dwarfism. The rest of his life story is told here . And Steinmetz did not grow up in Texas. I'm afraid many people, all over the world, need to have a different view of "perfect." Thanks for your comment. I am glad to know that you have succeeded in your life much as Steinmetz did -- and for you there is much more to come. And those who visit YOUR website at will know how you have succeeded as an author•editor•teacher. Thanks for sharing.