My city is about to host the Paralympic Games. The prospect of watching the talents of disabled sportspeople has got me thinking about the lives of children and young people with disabilities. Just like their non-disabled peers, they have an appetite for risk and adventure. By way of a demonstration, I would like to introduce you to Aaron Fotheringham.
Aaron was apparently the first person ever to perform a wheelchair backflip.
If that has whetted your appetite, check out this video showcasing more of what Aaron calls – in an engaging, down-to-earth, interview – ‘Hard Core Sitting’.
It seems clear to me that Aaron has some special qualities that have led him to excel in his field. But I suspect that the challenges he has had to overcome are not so different to those facing other children with disabilities. People who work with them tell me that in their view, these kids can be even more overprotected – by parents, carers and educators – than their non-disabled peers. And it’s not hard to imagine why.
There is a lot that could be said about how we help children with disabilities prepare for the challenges they will face throughout their lives – challenges that are as much to do with the attitudes and behaviours of others as to their own disabilities and/or impairments. And there are different views about how best to understand disabled people’s experiences and perspectives.
Those are conversations for another time. For now, at the start of the biggest celebration of the athletic talents of people with disabilities that the world has ever seen, let’s agree on this: whatever their circumstances, one thing that kids with disabilities share with all children is the urge to get to grips with the world around them. Just like the rest of us, they want to gain a sense of their own capacities and competences: to feel what it is like to try, and to succeed.