Questioning Disabled Kid Racing

So my 5th grade class had like 40-50 kids total and two of the kids were disabled. One kid had Muscular Dystrophy and the other had Cerebral Palsy. Paul and Eric. I don't think they were friends with each other even though they seemed pretty similar in terms of their physical disability. They both had issues walking but could get along without crutches-- with noticeable difficulty. Sort of chest first gait with a twisty step to it situation. Anyway, they both went to gym class with us and if there was an activity where they could get involved the gym teacher would bring them in.

Anyway, at the end of gym class the gym teacher would usually race the whole class. All the way down the length of the gym floor and all the way back. First all the girls raced. They'd all line up. Then... on your mark. Get set! <whistle!> 25 girls yelling and running as fast as they can. Sneakers squeaking like crazy. The boys would cheer em on from the sidelines. Then the boys raced. On your mark. Get set! <whistle!> 25 boys yelling and running as fast as they can with girls cheering. That was usually the end of gym class.

But one day after we were all done racing the gym teacher called up Paul and Eric. (I don't remember if they seemed surprised or not). The gym got quiet as we all sat on the sidelines and watched these two kids walk up and toe the line. They were gonna race? They were gonna race! On your mark. Get set... <whistle!>

Off they went! Struggling to run as fast as they could. There was barely any cheering at first. More just half-stunned 5th graders staring and processing the new thing going on. We listened to the squeaks of the lone sneakers and the grunts as Paul and Eric picked up speed in their flaily running styles. Running the full length of the gym by themselves. They were pretty evenly matched tho! The crowd of us eventually came around to cheering on favorites and getting into it. After what seemed to be forever (minute or two?) they finally finished their race in a photo finish and everyone clapped like crazy.

I remember them racing a few times after that and it always raised questions in my head. Was it right to do? It seemed questionable. Were they embarrassed to be racing in front of everyone? Were they asked if they'd mind racing? Did they need to be asked? Did their parents need to be asked? If they weren't evenly matched would the gym teacher still make them race? Was it even physically healthy for them to be running as fast as they could? I know disabled people can be hugely competitive athletically of course. But these were two 5th graders who had issues walking. Being in 5th grade is tough and awkward as is without super spotlighting any stuff that you don't want spotlit. .But?

In retrospect, I guess I do respect the decision and think it was a good call. Sure it raises alot of questions that could make you go back and forth on it-- but I guess it's all pretty simple in the end. It was gym class. In gym class you run as fast as you can. End of story.

ok bye!


Warning: Some comments below may annoy you or make you roll your eyes...




PS. I wrote about Paul a while ago here.