Home > Articles, Community, Reviews > Disabled Girl Gets Spot On Cheer Team: Up For Discussion, Part 1

Disabled Girl Gets Spot On Cheer Team: Up For Discussion, Part 1

Click here to read one of the headlines from cnn.com today before reading my post.

This story presents a really interesting scenario for me – as the parent of a special needs child I think that the Portland High School cheerleading team is to be commended for their empathetic, kind and generous spirits. What an inspirational group of young women (and adults!). Not to mention the courage and determination of Julia Sullivan and her family, who traveled halfway across the country in order to fulfill her dream.

On the other hand, I don’t think that the criticism leveled at the Sullivan’s Nebraska high school is warranted. Julia auditioned 3 times for the cheerleading squad and didn’t make it – I am sure many other teenage girls found themselves in the same situation, disabled or not. All people are not created with equal skill sets (thank goodness, right?), and some sports and activities are not for everyone.

I do not expect that James would be able to find a place on a typical football team, or any sports team for that matter. Even if not completely at peace with it, I have totally accepted the fact that James will not be able to participate in some activities, pursue certain careers and join every group that interests him because of his limited abilities. Additionally, I do not expect everyone to make a place for him and believe that competitive groups have their place in any school – learning how to deal with disappointment is as important as having quality student organizations on campus.

I plan to help James explore every unturned rock that has a “Potentially Special Needs Friendly” sign on it and feel certain that he will find activities and even a career that not only welcome him, but fulfill him. However, if James had his heart set on being on the high school football team and it was all he talked about day and night, year after year, might I explore the possibility of a team somewhere letting him play or participate in one game? You bet your last dollar I would – I only hope that I would be as supportive and determined as Julia Sullivan’s parents.

I don’t usually do this, but to start a discussion off I’m going to post some of the comments left on cnn.com below. Note: please keep in mind that I am posting what comments I feel epitomize the issues regarding the article and not necessarily what I agree/disagree with. I encourage you to leave your own stories and/or opinions. You are welcome to leave them anonymously if you feel more comfortable.

Comments from cnn.com:


praises to the team who let Julia cheer with them. Just to bad that our home town of Aurora missed their chance to let her shine.

Three Dog Mama

I hope she does make her high school’s team. She has what it takes to be a cheerleader!


Come on… I dont want to be mean, I’ve got nothing against the girl… but this is just ridiculous. “She has what it takes to be a cheerleader”, no, no she clearly doesnt. She doesnt have legs or arms. This is kind of an issue with our culture, we feel the need to make everybody feel like they’re special and they can do anything they want to if they just put their mind to it. This girl would clearly be better applied somewhere else, look at stephen hawkins. He gets plenty of respect for totally legitimate reasons, without people on blogs.cnn.com vomiting up charity comments to make themselves feel better cause they encouraged a handicapped girl in her efforts to accomplish some wasted endeavor.

Thats the problem with our society, instead of saying… “you know, maybe cheerleading isnt your thing” we tell people “YA!! YOU GO GIRL!! YOU CAN DO IT!!!”. No she cant. Just being honest, unlike half the people posting here. Doesnt make her less of a person, doesnt make her less qualified to become something in life. Just means she doesnt have legs or arms.


Cheerleading is more about getting your home crowd fired up….so, if she’s able to do that then there’s no reason she shouldn’t try. And to compare her to Stephen Hawkin…come on. The man is off the charts genius so only so many people can fill that gig.


That’s so mean. It’s high school cheerleading not the olympics gymnastics team. It’s about spirit and being involved in your school. She should be able to be on the team. She’s beautiful inside and out and would be a great asset to any cheer team!


Agreed. There’s nothing mean about saying that at all, it’s a fact of life that some people are not born with the attributes required to succeed in all fields or aspirations.

Well said, James. Truly what was needed to be said (because 95% of the readers are at least “thinking” it…and I dare say, 100%)
It’s not mean to say that this girl should generally ‘not’ be a cheerleader, and for all the “you go girls” (which is nice, and I surely would encourage her to do all that she is capable of…) the reality is that she will not continue in this endeavor.
Cheerleaders do flips, jump, kick up their legs. It’s what they *do* and if a person can’t *do* those things, then they are not going to make a good cheerleader. IF, and only if, this girl was at a special school for crippled and handicapped kids, and their entire cheerleading squad was made up of those with a disability…it would make sense. Otherwise, this is a “feel good” story that will be forgotten by next week.


Seriously, I applaud her determination. But what about the more physically capable girl, who can do ALL the routines, pyramids, jumps, etc, who would be cut and denied a place on her high school squad if she’s allowed on? There are other extracurricular activities besides cheerleading which might better fit her physical condition.


Thank you for sharing a story filled with human warmth and love! This young girl is truly an inspiration of courage. God bless the coach and cheerleaders for compassionately aiding Julia in pursuit of her dreams. It’s a shame a handicapped girl has to travel 800 miles because her own school lacks true spirit. Go Julia!!!!

There are over 150 comments on cnn.com. Feel free to leave your own here.

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