What would you say if your child were legally blind and wanted to do gymnastics?
That is what the parents of Lola Walters had to decide. Lola is a USA Gymnastics Level 6 gymnast which means that she does handspring vaults, jumps to the high bar and “fly aways” on bars, back walkovers and leaps on beam and she is legally blind. She has a condition called nystagmus that limits her vision, causes her eyes to flutter, allows no depth perception, and often causes double vision.
Usually athletes can see what is in front of them… whether it is a vault or a bar or an opponent. In Lola’s case, she has not idea what is in front of her until she is about five feet away from it because she is legally blind. You can see this blind gymnast in action on Youtube.
Lola’s mom said, “She can see. It’s just that what is in front of her constantly moves and she can not judge distances or focus.”
Lola’s coach is quoted as saying, “She works twice as hard as everybody else and I’ve seen her fall harder than anybody, and she’ll get up and go again, every single time.”
This amazing young woman sees her disability in a very different way from the way most of us would see it. She said, “Most people I compete with don’t know I am any different from them, and as far as I’m concerned it can stay that way. If they don’t know, they don’t need to score me differently.”
Lola has been a gymnast since she was three years old. It wasn’t until after Lola was enrolled in gymnastics that her mother understood just how
bad her vision was. By that time, she was already a good gymnast.
“I don’t know what it would be like to do gymnastics with perfect vision,” “so really, I don’t see a difference.”Had her mother held her back in fear of her getting hurt, Lola would not be where she is today. We already know about out Olympic gold medalist Gabby Douglas. Gabby met Lola and said, “This is such an amazing moment for me. I am star struck. Lola, you are truly incredible. This truly shows what a mind can do. If you love something and have a passion for something, you won’t let anything stop you. You are amazing.”
So parents, back to my original question, Where do we draw the line between keeping them safe and allowing them to blossom?
Lola Walters is our newest hero.
At times, we meet people who become our heroes. We don’t necessarily meet in person. We meet via the internet or via the news or through mutual friends. We become friends because we share a belief. Our hero today is Patrick Henry Hughes and I am certain that we share the belief that, If you believe it, you can achieve it!
Patrick was born without eyes and without the ability to straighten his arms and legs. In addition, he has had two steel rods attached to his spine because of scoliosis. In spite of all of his physical issues, Patrick has overcome the odds with the support of a wonderful family.
He has so much talent, courage, love and desire that his example is a gift to all who are lucky enough to have come in contact with him. As difficult as it is to believe, Patrick began to play the piano at nine months of age and also sings and plays the piano. Patrick has excelled as a musician, student, performer and public speaker.
If any of you have a disability or if you have a child or a loved one who has a disability, please don’t enable any negative thinking about your or their abilities. Please show your children that you believe in them and all that they can do.
The following quote is from Patrick’s website:
He (Patrick) even participated in the University of Louisville Marching Band for five seasons with help from his father, Patrick John Hughes, who tirelessly maneuvered his wheel chair through the formations with the other 220+ members of the Cardinal Marching Band. Patrick is usually a straight ‘A’ student, having received only 3 ‘B’s’ during his entire primary/secondary educational experience and graduated from U of L magna cum laude. Patrick is a Spanish language major and speaks Spanish fluently.
A virtuoso pianist, vocalist and trumpet player, Patrick has won or finished very high in numerous competitions, as well as winning awards acknowledging the circumstances he has overcome to achieve these heights.
I suggest that you read Patrick Henry Hughes’ book, I am Potential. It just might change your life or the life of someone you love.
Please remember that people don’t have disabilities, they have dif-abilities!