The ROP FAQ
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The following posts reflect various opinions on participation in sports activities by people with ROP. The ROP list was was moderated by Dr. Scott Richards until August, 2002. The list is now hosted at YahooGroups.
Date: September 12, 1998
From: Janice Brown
This is an area the medical profession must share with families on an individual basis so that they can make individual decisions as to risk taking. It is a hard area to understand - the good news is that over the years better medical techniques are available vs 20 years ago. It is important to seek immediate medical attention if any eye change may have occurred if retinal detachment is a possibility.
I have been attempting to come up with a checklist for PE that doctors can check off - i.e. swimming OK but driving head first may not be. Horseback riding - supervised trail riding - question is it in a wooded area with overhanging limbs or branches that require ducking or open area. Guided rides on gentle horses vs owning your own spirited horse and free riding.
Learning to know what all recreational skills may involve in order to make a personal choice for your child - making resonable risk to high risk.
This is where people differ - high risk takers and low risk takers. I'm not a rock climber and hanging over cliffs but gee I would love to be since I love the out of doors. But it is not going to happen.
However, everyone and certainly parents want to understand how the eye works and why/how of detached retinas. Everyone wants to make decisions based on all the information that is available.
Date: September 14, 1998
From: Jody Ianuzzi
I would like to comment on physical education and blind children. I had the frustration of attending gym classes in public school. I think the biggest criticism I have for gym programs is they seem to focus around ball games. There are so many activities that ball sports are really just a minor example.
I never wanted to admit I couldn't do anything, so I always found myself in the humiliating situation of not being able to chase, hit or intercept balls in all shapes and sizes from field hockey to basketball. Of course when it came time to dividing up into teams no one picked me and the gym teacher usually assigned me to a team that groaned at the prospect of me joining them. My mom always knew when I had a gym day because I would usually come home crying. I finally was given a waiver for phys. ed. which lessened the humiliation, but left me feeling incompetent as a participant in sports.
When I went to college I joined the judo club. I have enclosed an article I wrote about judo eight years ago. Judo changed my life--literally. In addition to all I learned from Judo, I also met my husband and our family have been active together in Judo. My husband and I are both third degree black belts, my son is a first degree black belt, and our daughter is an orange belt.
I never considered the risks to my vision in doing judo. You learn how to fall and in all the years I have participated I have never hit my head. I think I would have second thoughts about it now in considering the risks, but it is too important to me now to give it up. I would never consider karate because I think it is a much more likely sport to risk head blows. (judo does not include any kicks or punches) When I was a child I also rode horses and I have considered riding again as my daughter is taking lessons. I think the chances of injury have to be taken into account, but I think chance risks should not be a reason not to participate.
I have had the opportunity to teach many students and some of them were blind. I will never forget the day we traveled to a tournament with our students and stopped for lunch at a Burger King. All of our students came home with ribbons that day including one blind student. She told me that it was the best day of her life not because of the ribbon, but because she felt like she was just 'one of the kids'. No one treated her any differently because of her blindness. I must admit to a lump in my throat, because that is what judo had given to me, and now I had given it to her. She didn't care if she couldn't take part in her school gym classes--She had something she COULD do. This girl was in special ed. gym class where the teacher had her sitting in a chair doing arm exercises. I wish the teacher had seen this girl throw her opponent over her hip and get her in a pin.
Find an activity for your children that they can enjoy and be active in. Tandem bike riding, hiking, sailing, canoeing, cross-country skiing, scuba diving, horseback riding, the list can be endless. I know a blind child can do these activities because I have done them all myself.
I know of a blind woman in California who runs her own stable and teaches riding. The possibilities can be endless.
A blind woman is traveling alone down a dark, deserted street. There are some people who might consider her helpless and vulnerable. I would like to change that image. That blind women just might be me on my way to teach my judo class.
Many of the challenges of blindness can be overcome by learning alternative techniques. Some situations can be a bit more challenging then others. As a child in public school, I remember the school yard bully, who tested my vision by punching me in the face. My gym teacher gave me a permanent waiver from class, after years of sitting on the side lines while the rest of the class played a variety of ball games.
Eventually, I found a solution to these challenges as well. Judo became my ultimate alternative technique. When I first heard about judo classes, I was hesitant. Based on my past experience, I didn't think the judo instructor would consider me as a student. Happily, I was wrong! The instructor didn't care if I couldn't see. He was more interested in what I could do, and I could do judo. I sincerely mean it when I say that my life hasn't been the same since that day.
It is now twenty years later. Life has come full circle. I am the instructor and I am recruiting blind and sighted members to my judo club.
I want to give to my students what judo has given to me.
Unlike some martial arts, judo needs no adaptation for blind players. Blind players have been active in judo for many years, practicing with sighted players on an equal basis. My students and I have attended many tournaments and clinics, both large and small and we have never been excluded or shown any favoritism. For blind children, judo can provide an opportunity to be "just one of the kids" both at practice and when attending club activities. This is as it should be, as it benefits both the blind and sighted players and embodies the philosophy of judo as well.
Judo is a full contact form of self-defense that includes throwing techniques, pins, chokes and joint-locks. A basic principle of judo is that a small person can throw a larger person by using the motion of the larger person to throw himself. In this way, if a person pushes you, then you pull them into a throw.
The physical benefits of judo practice include self-defense training, weight control, and physical fitness. With regular practice there is a noticeable improvement in balance, coordination and orientation. Judo is enjoyed by men and women of all ages from small children to adults. It is a great way to get back into shape and stay in shape while having a lot of fun too. One aspect of judo that I enjoy is that it challenges your mind as well as your body. Other forms of exercise can be boring and it is easy to loose interest in them.
There is a philosophical benefit to judo training. As you challenge yourself you gain a feeling of accomplishment that carries over to all aspects of life. The knowledge that you can handle a physical conflict makes a verbal conflict much less threatening. You will find that you develop a strength of mind to stand up for what you believe in, but also a strength of mind that will allow you to step back when it is wise.
As skills and attitudes develop, the school yard bully becomes less of a concern. The blind person walking down the deserted street isn't as vulnerable as some might think. The person who attempts to be dominating, finds they are not successful. Judo is a way to even the odds and change what it means to be blind.
I hope I have sparked an interest in you to learn judo. It can change your life as it has changed mine. Challenge yourself!
Date: September 15, 1998
From: Pam Berryman
I can relate to you whole heartedly concerning trying to participate in various sports games involving the use of a ball. I went through very similar experiences where I would try to participate in soccer, dodge ball, and volleyball in 7th grade to be a part of the group of sighted peers. Naively, I thought that I might be able to succeed in these games. Wrong! After getting hit in the head a couple of times, I resigned myself to the fact that these sports were not for me.
I can also recall sitting on the sideline watching others participating in activities and feeling utterly bored! If I was lucky, I could participate in a day when there was square dancing or folk dancing. I could also sense the tension when a partner ended up with me.
I can also recall one incident in college (undergraduate education at Eastern Michigan University) when I took an adaptive class for teaching physical education to students. I was determined to be a part of the relay races. The goal of the race was to run to the other end of the gym and to jump over the hoolahoop. Well, my team did win, but I didn't come out very well. I ended up missing the hoolahoop, tripped over it, and ended up with a nasty sprain and torn ligaments in my left ankle.
As I look back, I can see that I was going through a stage of trying to prove myself and determine where I fit in the partially sighted world--that world between total blindness and full vision. From that point--and since my vision has become worse--I have learned to accept what my limitations are but to work toward things I can do.
I also took horseback riding lessons during high school. I loved it! At first, I worked individually with an instructor on a lead rope. Afterward, I was able to join a class. The instructors were very patient and understanding. They did a great job in verbally discribing the horses movements, taught me how to feel the "diagonal" the horse was trotting so I could post in rhythm (I took English riding lessons). The class was also sensitive to my visual impairment, and the instructors made it clear that I had low vision and to "watch out for me' as I could not easily "watch for them." When traveling outdoors, however, I traveled on a leadrop with the instructor. I enjoy horseback riding. I have to limit it now, due to my allergy to horse dander. However, I would still ride for shorter periods of time and take my nondrowsy allergy medication if I had an opportunity to ride again. I loved horseback riding! It was something I did well, felt a sense of challenge and confidence, and was told I did look good in the saddle.
I also agree that it is important to find sports that children with visual impairments can participate in and feel confident in what they achieve. There are many activities that children with visual impairments can participate, and there is no need to be sitting on the sideline and feeling excluded. I'm thinking of swimming, bowling, horseback riding, dance, etc. as well as judo.
Jody, I must congratulate you on your achievement with judo, as well as congratulate your family. I would not mind learning this, as it would be a sense of further achievement, and it would also be a good means of self-defense.