Disability (if applicable): my son Aaron has cerebral palsy (spastic quadriplegia) and epilepsy
City, State, School: Evanston Township High School (ETHS), Evanston, Illinois
What are some successes you have had participating in your sport? Aaron has been participating in sports since he was very young. He is a 3 sport athlete at his high school, and has successfully participated on the cross country, swim, and track teams. He is held to the same standards as other athletes in terms of academic eligibility and attendance, but his coaches work hard to tailor practices to him on a daily basis. He has set PR’s in swimming track and cross country events, and continues to train with his high school classmates throughout much of the year. This past summer, his times from his track season at school enabled him to participate in the Adult USP Nationals in St. Paul, and his track coach wrote out training workouts for him to take along. He has also been able to swim in our state swim meet as an athlete with a disability.
Did you experience any challenges? As a parent, I would say one of the bigger challenges is making sure Aaron does not get too fatigued and overwhelmed. Because he is also a high performing student, we work with teachers a lot and closely follow deadlines to make sure if Aaron needs extra time he receives it. His freshman year he had a brief adjustment with each athletic season, but this year (he is a sophomore) he knew what to expect and the adjustments were not as challenging. His teachers have been very helpful and understanding.
What first steps did you take to get involved in your sport? I think it was very helpful that we reached out to the coaches and athletic director when Aaron was in 8th grade. We had him join the feeder swim team that the ETHS coach directs, and that swims in the high school pool which familiarized him with the pool and swim coaches. Because his older brother is also a runner, we had a relationship with the cross country and track coaches, who actually came to watch him run at adaptive meets when he was still in middle school, and who have been able to include him while tailoring workouts to his needs. Cindy Housner, Executive Director of GLASA, helped us out a lot, especially by attending Aaron’s transition to high school IEP meeting alongside the high school track and cross country coach in order to assist with planning for Aaron’s athletics and academics.
What advice would you give to anyone with a disability who wants to participate in sports? I think communication over time is really helpful with both coaches and teachers; gradually Aaron has been taking over ownership for this communication.