Inclusion Is At Center Of Basketball Hero's Story
By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
March 8, 2006
ROCHESTER, NEW YORK--As recently as six years ago, students with disabilities in the Greece Central School District were sent to specialized, segregated schools.
In fact, the State of New York cited the district for not including students with disabilities in regular classrooms or after school activities, according to Greece Athena High School principal Helen Wahl.
Things have since changed for students like Jason McElwain, who has autism and acts as the manager of the Athena Trojans basketball team.
"People are friends with me and nice to me," McElwain told CBS News.
"We kind of forgot he was autistic," said teammate Steven Kerr. "He became so much a part of us and a part of our program that we kind of forgot about it."
On February 15, "J-Mac" wowed audiences around the world who watched a videotape of him sinking six three-pointers and one two-point basket for a total of 20 points in just four minutes of play in his first -- and probably last -- high school varsity game.
Coach Jim Johnson put McElwain in the final game of the regular season after the team had a comfortable lead. McElwain is not eligible to compete in the playoffs.
Since the story was shown on the major networks, McElwain's parents have received offers from at least 25 film and television production companies, including The Walt Disney Co. and Warner Bros.
But none of this would have taken place if McElwain were still kept apart from his peers.
"The essence of the story is what happened before the moment. It's the six years before the moment," said principal Wahl.
"We have an obligation as a society to find a way to include people with different abilities," said the school's athletic director, Randolph Hutto, whose 12-year-old son, Joshua, is autistic. "This, hopefully, will help open doors for some people, or open some eyes."
"Hoops Hero Inspires Producers, Parents" (CBS News)
"Basketball Kid Gets Call From Hollywood" (Associated Press)