Changing the Future for Inclusion

According to the California Department of Education, children with disabilities are two to three times more likely to be bullied than their peers without disabilities.

Clare and Tarin are some of the young people looking to change that.

The girls are currently seniors at Davis Senior High School and recently joined other students throughout Northern California and Nevada to host awareness campaigns at their respective schools during R-word Week in March. The initiatives were part of the annual Spread the Word to End the Word movement around the country, educating the public about the negative effects of using the word “retard(ed)” and encouraging people to pledge to stop saying the word as a starting point toward creating more accepting communities for everyone.

Tarin and Clare, who started a Best Buddies club at Davis on their own at the beginning of the school year, organized a week full of activities around the R-word campaign to promote inclusion between students in special education and general education. Monday was a “Pledge Day’ that encouraged students to sign the Spread the Word to End the Word banner; on Tuesday, the girls developed an obstacle course to challenge general education students to maneuver around blindfolded, to simulate vision impairment, and to navigate in a wheelchair; Wednesday featured speakers from Best Buddies and Special Olympics; and the week culminated in a Unified Basketball game on Friday during the lunch period.

“We want students to understand that people with disabilities are no different than anyone else,” explained Clare. “They enjoy doing the same things – playing basketball, watching sports, going to movies with their friends. It’s important to get that message out there by having these social events where students can come to watch, interact and learn.”

The Statewide Taskforce on Education recently reported that less than 30 percent of students indicate that they would be comfortable even speaking to a classmate with an intellectual disability. Tarin believes that the issue can be remedied through education and simply getting students with special needs to be a visible and comfortable part of the campus.

“Depending on the way you grow up, a lot of people aren’t really educated about [special needs] and don’t know what’s different and how to react,” she said. “With the R-word, people may not really realize what they’re saying and the impact it can have when they use it. That’s a major part of this campaign.”

Along with the group at Davis, R-word awareness campaigns, activities and Unified Basketball games were held at Rocklin High School (in conjunction with Whitney High School), Reed High School, Desert Oasis High School, Crocker Middle School, Givens Elementary School, Dondero Elementary School, Harmon Elementary School and others during the week.

Clare explained that, while there are some obstacles to getting the interest of all students, the overall response has been positive.

“We’ve had a lot of support from our school and a good number of students came out to the Unified Basketball game,” she said. “A lot of people signed the banner, which was nice to see. We saw that some students have never really thought about the R-word being hurtful until this week.”

Inclusion and respect start at an early age. And while Clare and Tarin will soon graduate and move on to the next chapters in their lives, they hope that the momentum that they and Special Olympics put into place will continue for future students at the school.

Davis will host a Unified Track event on Wednesday, March 15, taking advantage of the school’s roughly 230 track athletes to build more relationships and awareness for students with intellectual disabilities on campus.
Stay up-to-date on the latest events and achievements in local schools by following us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. More information on Unified Sports, the Schools Partnership Program and the R-word campaign is available at and


Castro Valley Student Gives Back



As summer turns to fall, everyone is heading back to school, including Special Olympics Northern California Schools Partnership Program which is partnered with more than 400 schools all over California.

One of our partner schools, Castro Valley High School, shared with us a story about one of their remarkable students G’ana Losson. G’ana is 16 years old and is a senior at Castro Valley High School and has been playing on their Girls Varsity Soccer Team since her freshman year. In addition to her school team, G’ana plays for the Pleasanton Rage Soccer Club ECNL and has played with Castro Valley Soccer Club. G’ana is definitely an amazing athlete and a team player.

Not only is G’ana an amazing athlete, she has a big heart. She worked over the summer as a referee for the Pleasanton Soccer Referee Association and has donated all the money she earned to Special Olympics Northern California. When asked why she picked us G’ana said, “I chose to donate my earnings because my cousin, who has Autism recently joined a soccer team where all of his teammates have similar needs as him. I found this inspiring and want everyone to enjoy something they care about. I decided to pick Special Olympics Northern California because a good amount of my friends at American High School would always talk about how they spent hours working with the kids in the Special Olympics program with their varsity soccer team when they hold the Special Olympics soccer event there. I always wished I had the opportunity to work with them, but never did. This is my way of working with the Special Olympics program.”

G’ana is a shining example of students giving back to their communities in a meaningful way. We are extremely grateful that G’ana is supporting the athletes of Special Olympics Northern California.

Celebrating Summer with the Young Athletes Program



Preparing for life through sports begins with the Young Athletes Program here at Special Olympics Northern California. The Young Athletes Program offers kids with intellectual disabilities from 2 to 7 years old an opportunity to develop motor skills and hand-eye coordination through physical activities. The Young Athletes Program (YAP) is where kids first build their sports skills while socializing with their peers.

Our very first summer series of YAP is in full swing with six weekly sessions! All of the physical activities are focused around a different sport each week and most importantly, fun. The kids have been building on their skills week after week with obstacle courses, balance beams, and throwing and kicking at targets.  On the final day our athletes will get to show off the skills they’ve acquired in each sport throughout the series.  It’s an amazing moment for volunteers and parents alike when a young athlete masters a new skill and gets their high-fives and hugs.

We are incredibly grateful to Eric Hamilton, the lead instructor for this summer program. Eric creates a fun and supportive environment for our Young Athletes and their parents. Eric guides the parents and the volunteers to create a rewarding experience for everyone.

Click to learn more about how the Young Athletes Program or about volunteering.


Back-to-School Tips for Success

With the stores stocked with school supplies and teachers reporting for duty, there’s no mistaking the tell-tale signs of a new school year! We pulled some of our expert Special Olympics Northern California staff members – who also happen to be seasoned students and/or parents of students – for some helpful suggestions as everyone heads back to school! Comment with your tips to share with the group!

Routine, Routine, Routine

In the weeks before school starts, slowly change later summer bedtimes to mirror the earlier school year times. Same goes for wake-up calls. If you ease yourself or your kids into the adjusted sleep schedules, that 7:45 a.m. school bell will be easier to handle.

Turn Off That TV

Limit your or your kid’s TV/computer/iPad time in the evening, and especially before bed. Setting an allotment for nighttime TV time can help prepare you or your students to set aside time for studying. As a good rule of thumb, avoid the bright lights of TV and iPhones an hour before bed.

Get Involved

Ask your teacher about how you can get involved with the Special Olympics Northern California Schools Partnership Program!

Nighttime Planning Prevents Morning Tantrums

Plan your outfits – or help your kids pick out clothes – the night before. When the clothes are laid out, they’re less likely to dawdle while getting ready. You can also pack your lunch the night before to save time in the a.m., which also leads us to…

Plan for Stomach Success

Set some time aside to do some meal planning – breakfast, school lunches, after-school snacks and dinner. Putting together a schedule and doing some simple food prep will save you time, heartache and some green! Some great bloggers have made it easy with links like these:

Lunch ideas from The Taylor House

100 Days of Real Food has multiple entries with tons of healthy ideas – one, two, three and four

Childhood 101 has ideas for those who don’t like sandwiches

Superheroes and Teacups has all those links and more here

Lunchbox Lovin’

One staff member reports that she leaves her five-year-olds notes in their lunchboxes to help with first-week anxiety. This doesn’t always work with the middle school crowd, but snail mail notes and care packages are definitely appreciated with the college kids!

Practice Makes Perfect

If you’re a parent, accompany your kids on a dry run of getting to and from school. Walk or ride bikes with them so the kids will be familiar with the routine. If you’re in junior high, high school or college – locate all your classes before school actually starts. Knowing where your third period or 8 a.m. lecture hall across campus is before you’re five minutes late on the first day of school because you’re lost will make everything better.

A Clean House Is a Happy House

Before school starts, see that your kids clean their rooms, or if you’re a student, clean your room and your desk. Doing laundry before school starts is another surefire way to help things go smoothly in the morning. Having a designated and clean place for you or your kids to do their homework is a great way to kick off a school year of straight A’s!

Hope these help! Don’t forget to comment with your tips to share with the group!

P.S. Happy College Colors Day from the Special Olympics Northern California office!