Learn Your Special Education Laws, Special Education Rights, and Share IEP Goal Ideas

Sep 29
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by Doug Goldberg

Have you heard about the “Ike Special”?  You most likely heard about Ike Ditzenberger on your local morning news, as a human interest story, or caught his video on You Tube.  If you haven’t, Ike Ditzenberger is a football player with Down Syndrome.  He loves the sport and his two older brothers both played football competitively.    It wasn’t enough to cheer his brothers on from the crowd, he wanted to play too.  This is when his parents paid a visit to Mark Perry, Snohomish High School’s head coach.  Fast forward a couple of years to a routine game against Lake Stevens, with 10 seconds left and Snohomish down 35 – 0, Ike Ditzenberger ran for a 51-yard touchdown that was their only score. According to a piece ran by the Heraldnet.com, it is the same play that ends each Snohomish practice, and it is called the “Ike Special”.  The Coaches and players from Lake Stevens, after talking with Coach Perry, allowed Ike to score but made it look and feel as believable as possible.  Take a look for yourself below:

This is a wonderful human interest piece and the coaches and players from Lake Stevens should be applauded for their part in it, but, in my opinion, the true hero in this story is Coach Mark Perry from Snohomish High School.  Coach is defined by the Merriam-Webster dictionary as one who instructs or trains; especially: one who instructs players in the fundamentals of a competitive sport and directs team strategy.  In a world that determines success for a Coach by how many games they have won or lost it’s nice to see a Coach willing to provide the effort necessary to truly instruct and train his players in all aspects of life.  What do I mean by this?  Let’s see what happened in that meeting a couple of years ago between Ike’s parents and Coach Perry and every day since.  According to the www.Heraldnet.com story:

“Young man (to Ike), you can be on my team for the next four years,” Coach Perry said. “But you’ve got to lose that gut.”

Perry’s welcoming attitude — and sense of humor — delighted the Ditzenbergers. The coach has “a really generous heart. He sets the tone for the whole team,” Kay Ditzenberger said. “They see him embracing Ike and treating him with respect and then they (the players) do the same thing.”

In a recent interview with the Heraldnet.com, Coach Perry said:

I make him (Ike) a deal,” Perry told the Everett Herald. “‘If you keep your shoulder pads on and your mouth piece in, you’re going to get a play.”

Coaches always preach hard work to their players, to get the best out of them, but Coach Perry didn’t shy away from the hard work necessary to have Ike on his team.  Just look at the statement above, Coach Perry patiently instructs and teaches Ike what is needed from him in order to participate on the football team.  These lessons will also carry over to the rest of Ike’s life.  Coach Perry is also teaching his other football players to treat every human being with respect and kindness.  Respect and kindness is not your typical football motto but with Coaches like Mark Perry maybe it will become more commonplace.

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Ike Ditzenberger's Football Glory and the Special Coach that made it Possible, 5.0 out of 5 based on 4 ratings
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6 Responses to “Ike Ditzenberger’s Football Glory and the Special Coach that made it Possible”

  1. Hi. I’m Ike’s mom and I want to thank you for your article…you NAILED it! It WAS coach Perry. He is an amazing man that teaches life lessons to his players every day and he was the one that pulled Ike into the typical environment and opened more opportunity than we’d anticipated. As parents of special needs children we’ve probably all experienced the frustration of prying open potential doors of opportunity only to see our children ignored or sidelined yet again. We can only push so hard for so long. It is only when teachers, communities and coaches like Mark Perry PULL our children in that it works. All the best! Kay

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  2. Thank you and you are doing a wonderful job. Keep prying open those doors for Ike and it will give others a chance to have a positive influence on his life.

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  3. Thank you Kay for responding to our article about your son! You and your son are truly an inspiration for all families who have children with disabilities!!!

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  4. oh my gosh!! I had seen this video already, and a little piece of the story, but I am thrilled to see here that Kay has responded and given us her personal feedback. I am right in the middle of this SAME type of scenario now with my 13 year old daughter Hannah. She begged me to cheer with her peers on the sidelines last year. The coach made her “Team Manager” so I thought ok, this will be satisfying enough to both Hannah and us. Imagine my stunned, heartbrokenness when I found out that it was not ok for Hannah to cheer but yet they allowed a five year old little girl to suit up in full uniform and perform with the middle school cheerleaders at ALL home games. So here we are again this year, Hannah is requesting yet again, and this time I’ve decided to be bold and take her to the tryouts. Please pray for all involved that a stand will be taken such as that of Coach Perry. There is no excuse that Hannah could not be included, except for closed minded thinking.

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  5. Good luck with your daughter. You might also want to set up a meeting with the cheerleading coach to try and get her on your side as Kay did for Ike.

    It’s not easy always advocating for our children but we always need to keep on pushing and trying.

    Welcome to our community and please let us know how it turns out.

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  6. Thank you Doug. I have spoken with the coach before, but was met with I would love to, but I have to follow orders response. This year Hannah will follow the standard protocol and try out for cheerleading. I will certainly update as to the outcome.

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