The word “hurdles” is an interesting one. As a noun, it means an obstacle or difficulty that one has to overcome. Yet as a verb, hurdles means jumping over an obstacle or barrier — literally overcoming that difficulty blocking your path.
This dichotomy really hit me as I watched amazing athletes with disabilities gather for the Tokyo Paralympic Games this year to compete at the highest levels of sportsmanship. With events ranging from swimming relays to track-and-field, each athlete displayed astounding talent, teamwork, athleticism, and determination as they overcame complex challenges to achieve greatness.
You who have been reading this blog for years may know how much I love the Olympics. Well, I may love the Paralympics more. Why? As summed up by International Paralympic Committee President Andrew Parsons during the closing ceremony, “In 12 magical days, athletes gave the world confidence, happiness, and hope. Athletes broke records, athletes won hearts, athletes opened minds. Importantly, athletes changed lives."
Watching these people with complex challenges both literally and figuratively jump over obstacles and barriers inspired my spirit, and it also made me think of our mission here at The Quaker School at Horsham:
The Quaker School at Horsham uses research-based programs provided by compassionate professionals to enable each student with complex challenges to blossom and achieve meaningful personal, social and academic success.
So what does this mission really mean? It means that we help students find ways to overcome their complex challenges — the hurdles they face from dealing with a mix of disabilities: ADHD, learning disabilities, autism, expressive and receptive language disorders, anxiety disorders, epilepsy, selective mutism, and a variety of others.
Many of our students face multiple hurdles, and sometimes these hurdles are large and matrixed, yet we always help them find a way to rise above them on the path to growth and achievement.
Like the inspiring Paralympic athletes, our students are so much more than their limitations. They achieve athletically and artistically, in performances and on the playing field. True, the complex challenges they face are just that — complex and challenging — but how they learn to manage those complex challenges is what makes them special and defines who they are.
When I began this blog five years ago, I set out to help parents of children with complex challenges experience the simple joys of childhood with their children. Reflecting on our school’s mission, and my blog posts over the years, reminds me how the complex challenges themselves, the hurdles they face, are only obstacles, not walls. With the right training, the right support, and the right team, these kids will achieve greatness.
I’m just happy, and lucky, I get to cheer them on along the way.