16-Year-Old Swimmer Is Told Her Wins Don't Count Because She's Disabled

poolWhen you're 16 years old and paralyzed from the waist down, you have enough on your plate without having to pitch a court battle. But that's just what Mary Kate Callahan has to do. The Illinois teenager has managed to train her body to be a competitive swimmer, but the scores she puts up for her local high school aren't enough to convince the state she's good enough for them to count toward her team's cumulative scores.

Callahan is currently embroiled in a lawsuit against the Illinois High School Association because they won't let her swim with so-called "regular kids." Her scores are left off the list of her team's scores, and her name isn't being put forth to go toward the state swimming championships. What a lesson this is for kids, huh? A teenager refuses to let her disability hold her back from being competitive, only to be told that it doesn't matter what she's done ... she's not good enough because her legs don't work like everyone else's.


On an average day, I read lawsuit and I roll my eyes. We live in a country where parents have taken the court system over and turned it into a place where they pitch hissies instead of actually pushing their kids to accept that there are limitations in life.

But that's the thing about Callahan. She has already proven that her particular "limitation" isn't. She can swim, and swim well. Her body in the water is more similar to her peers than not.

She isn't asking to be treated "better" or get "special" treatment. She just wants to be treated the same as her teammates.

Isn't that what we want for our kids, regardless of their abilities? The chance to show that they are equal?

I've found the parents who really teach their kids that they are the same as their peers are the ones who end up raising children who come out ahead. These kids don't see any reason to stop at "just" equal, and it's because someone always had faith in them that they are just as good without blowing it over the top. There is nothing wrong with believing in our kids, and self-esteem, provided we give them balance, teach them they have to work for it.

And Callahan has worked for it. She's trained a body that's struggled since dealing with a rare neurological disease as a baby to become a fish in the water. It's only right that the state meet her halfway.

Have you ever had to fight for your child's school to actually meet your family halfway?


Image via terren in Virginia/Flickr

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