Author Archives: Claudia

Blind Gymnast – Lola Walters

blind gymnastAs parents, we want our children to be happy and safe and we hope that they will succeed in life. Where do we draw the line between keeping them safe and allowing them to blossom?

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.”

Blind Gymnast

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.

Popular Bullying Targets

Bullying TargetsWhen a child is bullied, whose responsibility is it? There are arguments and there are laws but as of now there are no specific answers. It seems to depend on where the bullying occurred and how the bullying was committed. Critics often blame the schools and some blame the parents but what does blame accomplish? The answer is absolutely nothing!

If you have children who are popular, you may think that they will not be bullying targets. That is not true. Since there are more people who are concerned about the causes and repercussions of bullying, more studies are being done.

The fact used to be that popular kids ruled the schools and sometimes that is still true but sometimes it is not. No longer are just the kids who are “different” victimized. There is a recent study that shows that the number of bullying targets who are high on the socially successful ladder in school are at an increased risk of being teased, ostracized and threatened.

Bullying Targets Can Be Popular

This may not make sense to you but there is an explanation about popular bullying targets that does make sense. The reality is that the kids who are “almost” as popular Bullying Targetsare targeting their rivals in order to knock them down a few rungs. That is the “cheaters” way of stealing their places on the top rung of the popularity ladder.

Robert Faris, associate professor of sociology at the University of California Davis and Diane Felmlee, professor of sociology at Pennsylvania State University investigated the subject of bullying targets. Their findings were published in American Sociological Review. They studied more than 4,200 students in the eighth, ninth, and tenth grades during the 2004-2005 school year.

In the fall, they asked students to record their five closest friendships from which they created a “map” that indicated the shortest paths to the most students with a higher social status. The questions were asked again in the spring of the same academic year. They compared the answers with reports of students being victimized. The victimization included verbal insults, physical aggression, being the target of damaging rumors, and continued and relentless harassment.

An example of their findings regarding popular bullying targets:

Students who started the academic year in the 50th popularity percentile and moved into the 95th popularity percentile had a 25% increased chance of being bullied over those who remained in the 50th popularity percentile. This pertained to both boys and girls.

To be continued.

First Photo: Steven Pisano

Second Photo: SLU Cook Business

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