Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Lightning Wheels

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.  


Robyn said...

"The running around felt like a huge drag on family time. "

yes! no kidding!

Isaac's been showing signs of jealousy that Andrew is in ballet and so I've been looking into *something* for him (he doesn't seem too interested in ballet yet...) and I'm looking into therapeutic horseback riding. Which he would LOVE and be so great for him...but the thought of adding it to the mix gives me hives.

But we are considered downright lazy compared to the other parents of ballet kids. One of the girls in Andrew's class was a competitive figure skater taking ballet to improve her skating. She has *something* everyday after school and they spend all weekend at the skating rink! HOLY SMOKES!!!

Susan said...

Joseph really, really wanted to do horseback riding. We've talked with some of the organizations here. They were gung-ho about having him participate and some of them would have let Margie go, too. But his physiatrist wouldn't sign off on it. Too much risk of pressure wounds and, I guess, even with all the safety stuff in place, head injury. But the programs seem awesome so I hope it works for Isaac.

Patricia Zelhofer said...

Tell Joseph that he never ceases to amaze me! He writes, he draws, and now he's becoming an athlete! So wonderful that you are making sure that he lives his life being handiCAPABLE rather than handicapped!
To your friend who posted that they are considered "downright lazy". We raised three children and there was a time in which we drove ourselves crazy trying to keep up with all their involvements. We finally had to say that enough was enough and made them chose what was important to them. I'd rather have a child excel at something because they can put all their energy into it than have them be mediocre at a lot. Being able to excel builds confidence.
Bill Cosby wrote a book called "Childhood". In this book he says that today's parents are forced to be more social director than parent. He recalls how he and his friends could keep busy for hours playing with an old bike tire hub cap (the metal potion of the wheel and a stick. I love this! Our children will have time to be part of the rat race when they are grown. Let your children be children while they can!