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  • Writer's pictureJodi Samuels

Taking The Leap

Updated: Mar 22, 2021

“You’re not disabled by the disabilities you have, you are able by the abilities you have.”

These are the words of Oscar Pistorius, the South African who rose to fame as an Olympic sprinter. The 25-year-old known as ‘Blade Runner’ is a double below the knee amputee and runs on carbon fiber J-shaped blades.

This, however, did not stop him from making history at the London 2012 Olympic Games. When he crossed the finish line in the 400m sprint race in just 45.44 seconds, Oscar Pistorius became the first amputee to compete in track at the Olympic Games (not the Para-Olympic Games). He finished 8th, but he made history nonetheless.

When he was interviewed by the media, he shared how his family never treated him differently or as a disabled person. He spoke about how his mother would tell his brother “go put on your shoes” and to him, she said “go put on your prosthetics”. As a young child, he just thought that his prosthetics were other kinds of shoes. He did not realize that he was different.

In our family, we have always made a point of treating Caily exactly the same as we did our other children. Caily started SAR this week. She has been so excited, and SAR has been so welcoming and accommodating. They invited Gavin and I to address the Early Learning Center (ELC) Faculty. The entire ELC, which includes more than 30 people came to hear us speak. I shared our vision for inclusion and motivation. I also asked the staff to judge Caily on her abilities, rather than on her diagnosis, and to treat her the same as any other child in the class. Gavin also shared the philosophy of the Feuerstein center.

By the time Caily arrived for her orientation, all the teachers at ELC had heard her story, and she was treated like a Rock Star. Everyone came to say hello and welcome her. At first, she was a little overwhelmed with her new environment, as well as all of the attention she was receiving. But she quickly got used to it, and started behaving like the Mayor. By the time she left, she insisted on saying goodbye to every person individually. She had an amazing first day.

On her way home in the car, she was so animated and bubbly – she told Gavin that she had to practice her Shabbat songs, because her class was having a Shabbat party on Friday, and she proceeded to belt out a compilation of all the Shabbat songs she knew.

What a blessing for our little girl to be at a school that is so warm and welcoming! This embodies inclusion in the most wonderful sense of the word. Caily will flourish in a class where she feels just like everyone else. And this is an equal blessing for her peers – who from a young age can develop the sensitivity and understanding that not all kids are the same. One day, when Caily does realize that she is different, hopefully these same friends will be there for her, as they were at the beginning of this exciting and emotionally-charged journey.

Originally published: September 10, 2012


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