Tuesday Toolbox: Building Self Esteem Through the Special Olympics

November 18, 2014

by:  D. Craig Peterson

Andrew PetersonMy son Andrew recently had a week to shine at the Special Olympics USA Games – a personal success years in the making. And now three gold medals to his name!

I will never forget how far he has come.

In second grade he was the boy often confined to “the post” at recess. Not because he wanted to be bad but because he didn’t understand the rules of many games on the playground – he often accidentally pushed his peers.

I finally asked Andrew’s teacher if he could walk laps around the playground. He needed to move, not stand idle during recess.

Soon he was running those laps. He loved the structure and predictability.

Then he joined the cross country team in middle school and found success all the way through high school.

And now at the age of 21, he continues to run in Special Olympics as he has done for a decade – one of 25 Olympic-style sports. Everything from swimming and basketball to bowling and track is available.

Participation begins at age 8 and can continue for a lifetime. Athletes must have an intellectual disability – which doesn’t have to be severe so many children affected by attachment issues and trauma will qualify. Moreover, the participation of unified partners is welcome – which means  non-disabled siblings and friends are allowed to participate also.

Most importantly, my son is happy and involved; he has a niche.

Children and young adults – of all abilities – need something to call their own, something to make them feel good about themselves and something to foster a sense of competency.  Success at their own level!

Each state has its own Special Olympics organization and website. Google “Special Olympics” with the name of your state to find more information.

And there is never a fee to join!


D. Craig Peterson is a retired ATN Board Director. You name it, Craig has a story to share in achieving success and learning from mistakes as he raised six children to adulthood...all while maintaining faith and believing in unconditional love. He understands the ups and downs of learning challenges, special education, psychotropic medications, ADHD, Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, Bipolar Disorder, Reactive Attachment Disorder, sexual abuse, juvenile justice, residential placement and so much more. In his upcoming book Adopting Faith: A Father's Unconditional Love, Peterson details his journey in raising six children who brought unbelievable challenges from their birth families and the foster care system. His parenting is a combination of typical and unconventional strategies." His blog is here: https://adoptingfaithafathersunconditionallove.org/