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Life Maker: School “Unified” Programs Create Big Opportunities

Support is growing in the movement to increase student’s opportunities in “Unified” activities in schools across New Hampshire.

“Unified” activities, most commonly known as “Unified sports”, is an inclusive program that began with Special Olympics uniting athletes (individuals with intellectual disabilities) and partners (individuals without intellectual disabilities) as teammates for training and competition.

Dennehy & Bouley is proud and honored to be working as lobbyist professionals with Special Olympics New Hampshire in their effort to pass legislation, HB 171, which creates a commission to look at expanding “Unified” program opportunities in New Hampshire’s schools. This is the type of legislation that brings Democrats and Republicans together in government.

Our ultimate goal with this legislation is to encourage and work with schools across the state to create opportunities to develop first-time Unified programs or expand programs, beyond sports, like theatre, band or other extra-curricular activities.

Research has shown that many people around the world underestimate the potential and abilities of people with intellectual disabilities. “Unified” programs create an opportunity to improve self-esteem, self-worth, and social inclusion. It is also an opportunity to engage, have fun, and be an important part of the school community.

More “Unified” programs will help students with and without disabilities. We must have high expectations for students with intellectual disabilities because if we do not, we are teaching another generation of regular education students that people with intellectual disabilities can’t follow rules or be held accountable, and as a result they will not be viable members of their community or society in general.

So, if you get a chance, go see a Unified basketball game and watch the smiles from ear to ear on the athletes, partners, and fans in the stands. Your heart will be full. This is what makes lobbying in New Hampshire a rewarding experience.

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