Monday, September 3, 2012

What the Paralympics mean to us parents of special-needs children

I had intended to begin with the Paralympics but can't resist a mention of this groundbreaking research into the causes of autism. The new theory is that pregnant mothers afflicted with some sort of inflammation can cause autism in their fetuses - and that treatment in before birth can help. 

One of the experimental treatments mentioned resonated with me: ingestion of whipworm eggs. One of our other daughters suffers from Inflammatory Bowel Disease and at one point we tried the identical treatment. While it caused some debilitating side effects that necessitated our abandoning it before any benefits could accrue, the concept is intriguing.

Now this same treatment is being tried with autistic adults in New York hospitals. The eggs are available to private customers only on the internet and cost a fortune. But one day, when they are cheaper and accessible I'd like to try them on my still - undiagnosed C. 

And now to the Paralympics.

Sadly, our local TV coverage - almost obsessive for the regular Olympics - has been nearly nil. I've had to rely on online and overseas TV media. The background stories are far more moving than any I read in the context of the regular Olympics. While none of our profoundly disabled children are candidates even for the Paralympics, it's clear the growing publicity and respect garnered by the Paralympic games and athletes benefits us all. And the statistics bear this out:

A 2010 study by the University of British Columbia (UBC) on the Olympic Games Impact (OGI), showed that of roughly 1,600 Canadian respondents, 41–50 percent believed the 2010 Paralympic and Olympic Games in Vancouver, Canada triggered additional accessibility of buildings, sidewalks and public spaces. 23 percent of employers said the Games had increased their willingness to hire people with disabilities.

Chief Executive Officer for the International Paralympic Committee, Xavier Gonzalez, said about the 2008 Summer Paralympics in Beijing, China, that
In China, the (Paralympic) Games were really a transformation tool for changing attitudes across the board in China towards people with disability, to building accessibility facilities in the city, to changing laws to allow people with a disability to be part of society

And for just one of the moving profiles of Paralympians try this article ("A Visionary Journey") in Time magazine written by and about two disabled heroes.

Would you believe that the Paralympics trump the regular Olympics in the category of cheating? That's because doping isn't the only temptation for Paralympians. There's also "faking your intellectual disability" in order to compete in the ID competitions.

The first such incident, the Spanish basketball team in the 2000 Paralympics, led to discovery that the practice was widespread and international. After a temporary of suspension of all ID competitions, they were reinstated at the Paralympics but with more stringent criteria for admission as intellectually disabled. (How?, I wonder).

While presumably none of us parents are Olympians of any sort (please correct me if I err), we really must preserve our strength and fitness. I just learned that the hard way. 

It seems all the lifting and straining for C. has helped to prolapse my pelvis. (Actually my bladder; I hope that isn't TMI). Nurses are one group of women at high risk for this condition. And aren't we virtually full-time nurses to our children? Admittedly, my age and deliveries are culprits too, but no doubt this strenuous lifestyle has played a role.

I am now hitting the Kegel exercises with a vengeance. My advice to you younger parents: Don't follow my lead: embrace those Kegels before the damage.

One last tip: Practice with biofeedback and a physiotherapist is invaluable. (My health fund is generous that way).

1 comment:

Anonymous said...


I imagine you will have found this already, but the very best coverage (if not particularly impartial) is from Channel 4 itself

Hopefully you can get it ok, if not ask a techy friend to help get round any blocks or boundaries they might put on, it really is worth it.

Please can I really strongly recommend the late night round up each evening called "The Last Leg" with Adam Hills as that has made me laugh and cry more that all the rest of the coverage put together.

The show is hosted by Adam Hills, Andy Brooker, and Josh Widdicombe, who are respectively an amputee comedian, a sperts presenter with a prosthesis and "hand issues", and a very funny AB commedian that really gets it.

The coverage is fantastic, it really gets into the sport, and has a wonderful section called "Is it ok....." where the three presenters take a very light hearted approach to what you can and can't ask/be curious about/say about the Paralympics and the athletes - it has almost single handedly taken away the awkwardness AB people feel about the disabled that makes them keep their distance for fear of causing offence or whatever.

Watch it please - I promise you it will fill your heart with joy.