LACONIA — For many students, graduation means the excitement of a new chapter and the promise of higher education or the start of a career. For students with disabilities, and without access to those paths, graduation can be “the worst day of the year.” 

In school, Unified Sports and courses – where students with and without intellectual disabilities participate together – offer students with disabilities “the opportunity to have normal high school experiences that sometimes they don’t get the chance to participate in,” said Laurie Belanger, a former guidance counselor whose son, Gerron, is autistic. These programs promote understanding between students of different abilities and offer relationship building, social inclusion and structured group physical activity to young people with disabilities. 

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