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.