Magazine article The Exceptional Parent

Special Olympics or Something

Magazine article The Exceptional Parent

Special Olympics or Something

Article excerpt

When President Obama appeared on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno (March 19th), they appeared like fraternity brothers kibitzing with each other in lighthearted banter. When asked about his bowling prowess at the White House lanes, Obama shared that "I bowled a 129. It was like Special Olympics or something."

While it was obvious that the remark was intended as self-deprecating humor, it stirred the sensitivities of the entire special needs community. Obama apologized through White House channels, which issued the statement saying Obama's remark "in no way intended to disparage the Special Olympics."

And while Obama was generally given a "pass" on the gaffe, it has provided an obviously much-needed "booster shot" into the psyche of America and their perception of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Tim Shriver, the doyen of Special Olympics, was masterful in his response, sending legions of White House aides scurrying down Pennsylvania Avenue looking for young women with Down syndrome to become White House greeters.

But Obama's remarks have raised some questions--at least with me. For one thing, what is "the score" that takes someone out of the Special Olympics cross hairs? Is it 130, 157, or 182? If indeed there is a mathematical red zone (like the heart rate graphs on health club stair stepping machines) that allows you to "graduate" from Special Olympics, then what is it?

The fact that Special Olympics championship bowler Kolan McConiughey has rolled five perfect games (300) since 2005 and averages 212 per game but still competes in Special Olympics should kill the notion that you can "score yourself out of Special Olympics."

I guess it's back to the bell curve and IQ thingy.

So what kind of IQ do you need to compete in bowling? What level of cognition and executive decision-making formulations do you need that Obama apparently thinks designates people in Special Olympics?

Take the bowling ball. Do you have to know which fingers go into which holes at the top of the bowling ball (and indeed are they always on the top?). I would think an appreciation of pitching and angling a thumb or finger hole and how it provides the bowler with a grip that produces maximum ability to apply lift to the ball upon release is a needed quality. For proper thumb alignment, Special Olympics bowlers know that forward pitch shifts more of the ball weight onto the thumb whilst having reverse pitch in the thumbhole shifts the weight onto the fingers. Otherwise, how would you make all those spares that are required to score over 200, scores that are commonly reached in the national championships?

Special Olympics bowlers also must know that the ball typically loses about 3 to 3.5 mph from the time it is released until the time it hits the pins. In order to compensate for this, they have to have an appreciation of the amount of friction created between the ball and the lane as it travels toward the pins. Of course, all of this changes depending on the amount of oil on the lanes. The equation to find the kinetic friction is: uk = FK/mg where uk stands for the coefficient of kinetic friction and Fk stands for the force due to kinetic friction; m is the mass of the ball and g stands for gravity. This stuff somehow gets incorporated into every ball release of the Special Olympics bowler.

Beyond this, they need to know the contribution of the elastic collisions that initiates "pin action" and how the angle of the collision helps to distribute the kinetic energy most efficiently. …

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