Athlete Monique Shah and her mother June have been involved with the Special Olympics for 26 years, with numerous gold medals to Monique's name. They were recently invited on CTV’s The Social, to talk all about Monique’s journey with Special Olympics, the importance of inclusion and how others can support the movement.
When Monique was just two years old she started experiencing seizures and was diagnosed with brain damage, impairing her ability to walk and talk.
June remembers doctors telling her and her husband that Monique would never amount to anything and recommended Monique be put in a home where she could receive proper care.
June sacrificed her career to stay home and care for her daughter while taking her to therapy programs.
At 17 years old, Monique was struggling – and then she discovered sports through Special Olympics.
It was Monique's physical education teacher at school who recommended June enroll Monique into sports as a form of therapy.
“Monique just took off from there. She just became a whole new person,” June said. “When I attended her first track meet, I couldn’t believe what I was seeing.”
Monique was a shy, quiet girl and sports allowed her to come out of her shell.
“Special Olympics made me healthy, strong and taught me that I can do anything that I put my mind to,” Monique said. “I make lots of friends – they’re like my family.”
One of Monique's biggest challenges is her retention and motor skills, which June said improved immensely as Monique participated in any form of physical activity.
"Skills that may be easy to other people, take individuals like Monique longer to acquire," explained June. "We discovered through activity she would thrive."
June said it is especially important for individuals with disabilities to keep active.
"It's important for their mental well-being. Without it, I don't know who my daughter would have been,” said June, “To be inclusive is to build a better world for all of us.”
“We can all learn from each other,” Monique added.