Future Reflections Summer 2013
by José Nogueras
From the Editor: Participation in sports is an exciting way to test one's limits and bond with others. In this article, José Nogueras describes how running helped him bond with his son, Jayden, and showed them both that disability need not be a barrier to fun and achievement.
Our son, Jayden, was diagnosed with septo-optic dysplasia (SOD) and other brain abnormalities before he was born, so we knew from the beginning that he would have some unique challenges. When he was an infant he started to receive early intervention services. A stream of professionals visited our home to work with him and to teach us ways to help him. Jayden's physical therapist, occupational therapist, speech therapist, and early intervention educator each made invaluable contributions.
From the first, Jayden showed us that he was a very resilient child. He was determined to crawl and later to stand on his own, and he was adept at getting food into his mouth. With each new improvement, the team set still higher goals for him.
During Jayden's early years we were living in Virginia Beach, Virginia. We enrolled Jayden in Hoyt Virginia Beach, or Hoyt VB, a road racing program for people with disabilities. Hoyt VB is a ride-along program. Runners push participants who ride in jogging chairs.
After a year in the program, Jayden began to express his admiration for Dennis Welch, one of the runners who teamed with him. We began to think about the possibilities. In May 2011 we visit Rick and Dick Hoyt, the founders of Hoyt VB, in Holland, Massachusetts. During that weekend visit Jayden ran his first fifty-yard dash.
When Jayden started running, even a mile race wore him out. He was exhausted when he reached the finish line. We focused on teaching him goal setting and time management skills. Gradually he realized he would have to train and work hard to reach his goals. He practiced running on neighborhood streets and in our city park. As his endurance improved, he entered more races. He saw the product of his hard work. Eventually he entered races in different states. We experience many new places and get to know a lot of great people.
One thing Jayden loves about running is that he can enjoy the sport just like everybody else. He wears the same shoes and clothes as the other runners. I run along with him to make sure he is aware of any obstacles on the course. Jayden does not see my participation as an adaptation--to him the event is "a race with Dad." Running gives us the chance to spend wonderful one-on-one time together and to form a close bond.
We now live in Bourne, Massachusetts, a town on Cape Cod. Jayden's school, Peebles Elementary, has been fantastic. The teachers do an excellent job of making sure he can access the curriculum and take part in school activities. Jayden is an active little boy, and he loves P.E. class. He really admires his P.E. teachers.
Inspired by our experiences with Hoyt VB, I helped found myTEAM TRIUMPH-Massachusetts. myTEAM TRIUMPH is an athletic ride-along program for children, teens, and adults with disabilities, including veterans. It is hard to describe the lasting camaraderie that running brings to a community. You can learn more about myTEAM TRIUMPH by visiting our website, <myteamtriumph-ma.org>.
It is very important for parents to teach their children that disability does not necessarily mean inability. Jayden likes to tell people our family motto: Finishing Is Winning. We apply this motto to running, schoolwork, and daily tasks, and it helps Jayden meet his goals.