Now that the Olympics over and all had settled down for a couple of weeks, now the Paralympics are in full swing. It’s great to hear the children cheering once again for Team Canada in wheelchair basketball and swimming. I love the learning opportunities that arise with the questions Tristan is asking about the athletes. The hows and whys. I don’t see as many differently abled people here as I did when I lived in Regina, which is a real shame. These questions allow us to help the children understand that everyone has value and something to bring to society. It’s a good chance to explain some of the differences in abilities, race, religion, age, and learning abilities that people have and how these things make each of us unique. We are all the same because we are all different.
One way to help us all learn about different levels of ability is to try it out for a short time and see what life is like. That’s a little hard to do with 2 and 4 year olds, but not impossible. It’s one thing to try to explain a concept, but you can gain a much deeper and lasting understanding through experience.
Back in my university days, some of my most difficult and demanding classes were the ones I gained the most from. These were taught by professors that really had a passion for their subject as well as creative ways to make the concepts come alive. Doug Cripps was one of these professors in adapted physical activity studies. Some of the tasks he set us were to lead each other around the campus in pairs with one person blindfolded and dependant on the other to navigate stairs, cracks in the sidewalks, etc. We played volleyball with one arm tied to our side. We played badminton while wearing goggles that were smeared with Vaseline or blacked out in the fronts but not the sides; all to show us some conditions that people must live with every day. I found it very interesting, and thought I could bring some of that experience into our home during the Paralympics.
The first challenge for the children was to try to balance along the curb with only one hand. As Tristan still finds it difficult to do this under normal circumstances, it really was a challenge for him. But he was excited to try it out. He did quite well, too!
The second challenge was to try the ring toss without without 3D vision. I found a pirate eye-patch in with the dressing-up clothes that worked just right. Strangely, I think Tristan may have done better with only one eye!
The third challenge was a game of goal ball with Tristan against his sister and Daddy. We had watched and learned a little about this on the Friday morning news program and we had some items around the house that would make a fine game. We set up some used knitting cones at either end of the living room for the goals and used a soft globe ball that plays music when it moves. An eye mask for each participant (except Kallista who wasn’t keen on this aspect), and we had a game going. The goal is to keep your bottom in contact with the floor while listening to the ball in order to prevent it from passing into your goal. You then catch the ball and roll it along the ground back to the opposite goal.
This game will help with spacial awareness and it will be interesting to see how it improves as the children develop over time. This is definitely one game that we will continue to play as it brought smiles and laughs to both those playing and watching.