I've been holding this post hoping to get more and better pictures but as the season comes to an end, I thought I should just post a few anyway.
Joseph has been participating this spring on the Lightning Wheels Team based out of Children's Specialized Hospital here in New Jersey. The team is one of the two local paralympic sports clubs in the area. Before Joseph started with this team I was a little hazy on the difference between the Paralympics and the Special Olympics. There is a bit of crossover and the two organizations (from what I've seen) have a friendly relationship. The two big differences are in the disability of the athlete and the type of competition at higher levels. The Special Olympics are geared for those with a primary diagnosis of cognitive or developmental delays. The Paralympics is for those with a primary diagnosis of a physical disability. There are athletes who could qualify for both organizations, obviously. A second difference is in the approach to sports. The Special Olympics aims to enrich lives through sport and all are welcome. The Paralympics require athletes to qualify to compete at a high level--this is the organization you see on television immediately after the "Regular" Olympics every two years.
Fortunately for our not-very-athletic family, the local clubs allow kids to participate even if they aren't planning to qualify as elite athletes--or, at least, our local club does. The kids are pushed hard to surpass their personal best records but in a very friendly environment. There are about 25 kids who turn out each week to run heats on the track, and throw discus, javelin, and shotput. Since the age range is 5-22, there are very few even matchups.
Joseph went to one of the three meets this year (we opted not to try for Nationals qualification this year). Races are run against other kids who are the same gender, the same age range (under 11, in Joseph's case) and a similar functional level. Joseph's main competition is a six-year-old boy on his team who also has spina bifida but is able to walk with crutches. His family practices a lot and are very competitive but Joseph managed to beat him in the 100m race at the meet which was pretty exciting.
(Joseph waiting for his turn to do his throws while Rosie hangs out in the front-carrier. The other kids have a blast running around at the practices.)
There are two main groups of kids: ambulatory and non-ambulatory. And they are further divided after that. Many of the kids with spina bifida have excellent strength and coordination in their arms while the kids with cerebral palsy often don't, for example.
The throwing events are done from a platform in an attempt to level the playing field. This picture is Joseph completing a personal best shotput throw.
It's been a really, really fun season for Joseph and it's been great for Eric and I to get to know some of the other parents a bit. I have to say, after a season of one kid doing one sport, I'm not sure we're going to encourage the other kids to take up organized events. The running around felt like a huge drag on family time. But, most likely, we will opt to participate with Lightning Wheels again next year. During the off season the kids have a chance to work with a trainer at a local gym once a week and we'll be continuing with that as well.
I just made a new schedule for myself now that Catherine is sort of, kind of, once in awhile, sleeping or playing long enough for me to accomplish something and the new schedule includes blogging a bit.
We've been enjoying the mild spring days (the few we've had in between the rainy days). One of the best things about home educating is getting to the park in the morning when it's relatively empty and the air is cooler. The kids are really into climbing lately. The top picture here is Gregory (3.5) at the top of a complicated, twisty ladder. The other had been scared of it for awhile and one day he called me over and said, "I just climbed that." I didn't believe him until he did it again. Within five minutes the three middle kids were chasing each other up it repeatedly.
Catherine Rose is almost eight months. We are still working our way through a list of potential nicknames for her but "Rosie" is the current favorite. She is a maniac. Constantly on the move and seldom sleeping. She's pretty cheerful but I spend a lot of time chasing her around and picking "choking hazards" and making sure she is not about to fall on something sharp. Our house currently has no carpeting and she's developing a thick skull. She is happiest when standing but, as you can see, the little boys are always very nervous about her falling--even though this playground turf is much softer than our wood floors.
William is 5.5 and is really struggling to find his place. He continues to swing between extreme sweetness and extreme storminess. He can play equally happily with his younger or older brother, playing elaborate imaginative games with Gregory and building with physics sets with Joseph. He has energy to spare and loves to race around the park on his little bike.
Margaret is 7.5 and really determined to master all the physically demanding parts of the park this summer. She's been working on various sections of the climbing wall.
And teaching Rosie to do the same . . .
And she has now officially conquered the lower set of rings. Eric and I marvel at this since neither of us could do this as kids. She's working now on a much higher set. I've been really pleased to see her patient determination with these since that is not generally characteristic of her personality.
A few days after the rings she made it to the top of the climbing wall.
How does Joseph keep busy at the park? Sometimes by making up imaginative games, often by bird watching. He is an avid birder and recently began a nature journal. His first entry was a starling and he's looking forward to cataloging our entire park and journaling on our trips this summer as well.