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VENTURA : Disabled Adults Score a Victory in Game of Life

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Not too many softball teams would be happy with a 17-10 loss.

But the players on the Training for Independent Living team saw that score in a recent game as a victory.

“It’s really a pretty decent showing for our team,” said Mary Engel, lead instructor in the program for developmentally disabled adults. “I’ve never seen anyone get bummed out about losing a game. They’re out there every Monday night.”

After years of fielding a team in the Special Olympics, the players at the Ventura center decided this year to join the regular city league, playing teams from businesses and neighborhoods around the city.

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Ventura city recreation officials were reluctant to let the team join at first, until they saw how well the other teams accepted their developmentally disabled opponents, Engel said.

The Monday night games not only give the players a chance to practice for their Special Olympics contest later this summer. They also offer a chance to mingle with the rest of society, which is the whole point of the Training for Independent Living program, Engel said.

“It’s mainstreaming into the community, learning to access the community, learning to interact,” Engel said.

The developmentally disabled adults live at the Ventura Training for Independent Living facility on Palm Street, most of them in separate apartments with roommates. They learn how to prepare meals, handle money, even deal with sex.

The three-pitch softball games become just another way of developing socialization skills. The softball team includes family and staff members, as well as the developmentally disabled players, ages 20 to 50. Engel’s son, Paul, is the coach.

They have yet to win a game in the softball league. But in the past, the center’s team has taken two silver medals in the Special Olympics. This year, Engel said, they are going for the gold.

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