Swimming in Beijing

Listen to this 'Talk of the Nation' topic

We all know Alan Schwarz as Neal's regular baseball-buddy, but today's he's got an incredible story on the front page of the New York Times. It's a profile of Kendall Bailey, a "6-foot-6-inch 19-year-old with an elementary-school mind and a nursery-school temperament" due to autism and mental retardation, complicated by cerebral palsy. Schwarz elegantly describes him as "somewhere between a newborn foal and a condor." But Kendall? Kendall's an elite swimmer headed to the Paralympics in Beijing. The movement of the water over his limb soothes him, and the faster he goes, the better he feels. However, he was almost disqualified after he made the team due to a mix-up with the International Paralympic Committee. Alan's got the amazing story, and joins us today.

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I was really touched by this story and I just loved it. I wish the paralympics was broadcast on TV so I could watch it but im sure i will find clips on you tube or something. I just wanted to say thanks for a great story

Sent by Zeek | 2:58 PM | 6-18-2008

With a person of this temperament, I wonder what will happen if he loses??? Seems dicey.

Sent by Martha Muhs | 3:01 PM | 6-18-2008

As a rehab professional who has worked with individuals with mild issues and individuals with significant emotional, intellectual, and physical disabilities, I think it is important to note that discrimination does exist amoung groups of individuals with disabilities. For example,in some instances, individuals within the Deaf community may exhibit a degree of hesitancy or even exclusionary practices towards individuals who are blind or Deaf and also blind. Perhaps it is simply that individuals with unique challenges do not wish to be placed in a large box simply labled "disabled". A person with only a physical disability more than likley often has to deal with individuals who assume they are less intelligent because they are sitting in a wheelchair. The bottom line is that even amoung groups of individuals with unique challenges, discrimination existis. And currently in the United States few disabilites garner as much ostricism as mental and intellectual disabilities. Sadly, we can not assume that advocates for athelets with physical disabilities would be equally supportive of an athelete with multiple challenges

Sent by Stephanie | 3:10 PM | 6-18-2008

Most people stay in hotels and are in airports and must follow coaches and get to meets on time. Does Kendall Bailey have problems with the schedule?

Sent by Fred | 4:51 PM | 6-18-2008

I'm curious what you think can/should be done to prevent this in the future. You mentioned on Talk of the Nation that the international governing body of the Paralympics indicated that Bailey would not be eliminated based on Paralympic regulations. In your investigation, did you get a sense for how extensively the international Paralympics governing body monitors the national groups? If the international governance is relatively lax, are there other mechanisms in place to prevent this situation from occurring in the future? Or might this story, as it brings the issue to the public's attention, be enough to curb such behavior?

Sent by Katie Herrold | 6:19 PM | 6-18-2008

I was quite struck by this story, especially when the NY Times reporter talked about the pride and sense of accomplishment the boy feels as a memberof this team. He wears his team jersey everyday, sleeps under an
American flag and has an American flag comforter. If these things are gone from his room, the boy could fly into one his terrible rages. The reporter implied that the boy derives a sense of calmness and well-being from being surrounded by flags.

When I heard this, my mind slipped back to the kerfluffle about Obama and the American flag pin. My thinking went something like this: The autistic boy loves the American flag and feels calm when in its presence and uncomfortable in its absence. Many recent politicians love the American flag. They feel comfortable in its presence and uncomfortable in its absence. Therefore, our political system is driven by autistic boys.

Sent by Kyle Quinton | 11:37 PM | 6-19-2008