Special Olympics Illinois Respect Week begins Monday, February 27 and will run through Friday, March 3.

Schools from across the state will be invited to participate in week-long themes, lessons, discussions, and games to foster inclusion for all students.

Each day of the week is associated with a color and aims to raise awareness for a specific intellectual disability. The lesson plans were developed by teachers and Unified partners and will promote understanding and inclusion for students with and without intellectual disabilities.

a person and a child playing with a ball in a room with other people

Kayla Magruder, a vocational teacher at Edwardsville High School, said having a week dedicated to respect helps ensure all students at the school are seen and heard. “Respect Week helps all students to know they are important and a part of the school, regardless of differences they may face,” Kayla said.

Kayla’s students range from ages 18 to 22. She said in her district, Edwardsville District 7, Respect Week is celebrated from preschool to high school. “We always have weekly dress up days and videos to share,” Kayla added. She also said she is excited for her district wide Polar Plunge on the Friday of Respect Week. “Each school does it a little differently, from dunk tanks to water balloons.”

Adam Garrett, Assistant Superintendent of Personnel, Edwardsville Community Unit School District 7, and member of the Special Olympics Illinois Board of Directors, added, “Respect Week is an opportunity to highlight all students’ talents and achievements.”

“I am continually inspired watching students lead the Inclusion Revolution across the state and am especially proud of District 7,” said Garrett. “Watching students, staff, and communities across the state join the movement of celebrating our difference and taking time to learn from one another will make a tremendous impact.”

Originally, the week began with the Spread the Word Campaign that worked to promote the end of using derogatory terms to describe people with disabilities. In Illinois, the campaign has grown and adapted over the years to promote acceptance and inclusion for all. Every year, Respect Week is the proud moment where we celebrate Respect for All – no matter the disability, gender, race, etc.

“Respect Week is another highlight of how the next generation is taking the lead on inclusion,” said Dave Breen, President and CEO, Special Olympics Illinois. “Each year, we see students all over Illinois dedicate themselves to creating environments where everyone is accepted, included, and celebrated.”

a group of people posing for a photo with a sign

Jen Kelso, Senior Director – Unified Initiatives, Special Olympics Illinois, said Respect Week is not only the culmination of efforts of students and school staff to be Unified, but also an important indicator of where to grow next.

“Respect Week has grown from not using slurs to describe people with disabilities to now, celebrating everything that makes us unique,” Jen said. “Respect Week shows us how far we have all come and it is the students who are showing us the next steps in inclusion.”

Click here for this week’s Respect Week guidelines. Click here to learn more about Special Olympics Illinois Unified Champion Schools.