Another Fantastic EAA at Oshkosh. Those magnificent people in their flying machines! Here are a couple of photos from the EAA 2010 Air Venture:
This is just a sample of what happened at EAA 2010. A good time was had by all!
Here you will find information about what is going on in my life and the lives of those around me. Not everything is here, but I try to update this with things as they occur. As stated by Socrates, "The unexamined life is not worth living"
The topic of my essay is a description of how an autistic boy benefits my classroom. I’ve read about autism. I learned that kids with autism usually don’t like to make eye contact. They are usually sensitive to touch and sound. It’s often hard for autistic people to speak and sometimes can’t speak at all. It’s hard for them to make friends. There is no one cause of autism. There is no known cure.
Some people might think that a kid with autism shouldn’t be going to school. I think that it is better that they do, so that they can learn to read, write, do math, and be part of the school community. I believe it will work better to teach the autistic students to live with their autism so that they will be able to go out in the world. I’ve gone to school now for three years with an autistic student. This is what I know.
Noah is an extraordinary boy. He is a student in my third grade class. Everyone in my class is different. What makes Noah most different is his autism. Like other kids, he plays and runs around at recess. Mrs. Reigh, his assistant teacher, says that he is really good at math. Other kids in my class are good at math too. Everyone has strengths and weaknesses. It’s what we do with them that matters.
Noah doesn’t speak like other kids. I can tell what he is saying but it’s not precise. You need to infer his meaning. I think I can tell what he is feeling. For many in my class it’s hard to understand Noah but everyone tries. Some kids in my class can speak really well but you don’t know what in the world they are talking about. I’m sure I don’t always make sense either. Just because he has autism doesn’t mean you have to speak different to him. He understands what you say to him. You should see him type. He types way better than me. Most of us speak to him like he’s any other third grader but with maybe a hint of more kindness. Like us, he tries to be a good student. He does the best he can. Having Noah in our class has helped us be better communicators but I don’t think we realize it. It just happens.
Noah benefits our classroom by showing his expressions. For example, being cheery. He laughs, jumps around, claps, and smiles. This brings a sense of cheer to the other kids in our classroom. I know that humans are affected by the people around them. Happiness brings more happiness and sadness brings more sadness. In our class the way people act or feel affects the whole class. When he gets mad, we know he’s mad but we have to figure out why. When other kids get mad they might not say why. Or they may say it is one thing but it is really something else causing it. You still have to figure it out. At least Noah gets over it.
Noah helps us become more patient. An example of this is when his Alpha Smart doesn’t work at the moment and we must wait. Another example is if Noah wants to explore an object we need to wait for our turn. He doesn’t always want to give the object up. For Noah this might be because he is autistic and can’t help it. For others it might be just plain old selfishness. It’s just the way some people are.
Noah uses some sign language. He helps us learn new signs too. Noah signs “thank you” when he gets a treat or snack. Noah signs “water” when he sees a picture of it. He signs “ball” sometimes also. This helps him communicate. Mrs. Reigh teaches us sign language so that we can answer. It’s pretty basic but it’s a beginning. It is interesting to learn.
I think Noah is a friend to others. At recess he blows Bubbles, plays with bird seed and rice. Noah will listen while others read. Being a friend is something everyone can learn.
The next example of how Noah benefits our classroom is not so clear and simple. You have to dig deep to realize, but it’s true. Not everyone realizes this, but Noah teaches us how to hope. He teaches us to hope, because he has autism. We can hope someday he’ll be able to speak. I’m told there is no “cure” for autism today. But what about tomorrow? Someone I respect and believe in says, faith and courage will carry you but only hope will lift you.
The final example isn’t so easy for me to describe. It’s about family. I grew up in a happy, loving family. It was my dad, my mom, my sister and Nana. We spent each day like it was our last. We knew Nana was dying. She had end stage emphysema. She wasn’t supposed to live a long time. She did though. She lived with us seven years. It was the best I could ask for.
Noah’s got a tough but good life. He has a Mom and a Dad, a little sister, an older brother and his twin brother Mark. His grandparents go to his house a lot. Noah’s brother Mark is autistic too but is home schooled for now. I’ve met his Mom, Dad, grandma, sister and Mark. Their family is patient, loving and caring. You can tell when you see them. I imagine their life is hard but worth while. I say that it is worthwhile because they have each other. They wouldn’t be making such progress and they probably wouldn’t be as strong if their family didn’t appreciate what they have.
If you look for joy and happiness you will find it. If you don’t give up looking for it, you will always find it.
Really close your eyes and think about this: people who have autism aren’t much different from us. They eat , sleep, drink, read, play, run, jump, laugh, cry, have feelings, love, hope, dream, type, bounce a ball, and make friends. The autistic person is not much different than a “normal“ person. It’s just more noticeable. Wouldn’t it be something if it wasn’t even noticeable?
This is the Olympic story we never heard.
It’s about a girl whose
“I have my pride,” she said through a translator before leaving China. “This is the highest thing any athlete can h
ope for. It has been a very happy experience for me. I am proud to bring the Somali flag to fly with all of these countries, and to stand with the best athletes in the world.”
There are many life stories that collide in each Olympics – many intriguing tales of glory and tragedy.
But it also gave us Samia Yusuf Omar – one small girl from one chaotic country – and a story that might have gone unnoticed if it hadn’t been for a roaring half-empty stadium.
It was Aug. 19, and the tiny girl had crossed over seven lanes to find her starting block in her 200-meter heat. She walked past
She looked so odd and out of place among her competitors, with her white headband and a baggy, untucked T-shirt. The legs on her wiry frame were thin and spindly, and her arms poked out of her sleeves like the twigs of a sapling. She tugged at the bottom of her shirt and shot an occasional nervous glance at the other runners in her heat. Each had muscles bulging from beneath their skin-tight track suits. Many outweighed Samia by nearly 40 pounds.
After introductions, she knelt into her starting block.
The country of
That has left the country’s track athletes to train in Coni Stadium, an artillery-pocked structure built in 1958 which has no track, endless divots, and has been overtaken by weeds and plants.
“Sports are not a priority for
That leaves athletes such as Samia and 18-year old Abdi without the normal comforts and structure enjoyed by almost every other athlete in the Olympic Games. They don’t receive consistent coaching, don’t compete in meets on a regular basis and struggle to find safety in something as simple as going out for a daily run.
When Samia cannot make it to the stadium, she runs in the streets, where she runs into roadblocks of burning tires and refuse set out by insurgents. She is often bullied and threatened by militia or locals who believe that Muslim women should not take part in sports. In hopes of lessening the abuse, she runs in the oppressive heat wearing long sleeves, sweat pants and a head scarf. Even then, she is told her place should be in the home – not participating in sports.
“For some men, nothing is good enough,” Farah said.
Even Abdi faces constant difficulties, passing through military checkpoints where he is shaken down for money. And when he has competed in sanctioned track events, gun-toting insurgents have threatened hi
s life for what they viewed as compliance with the interim government.
“Once, the insurgents were very unhappy,” he said. “When we went back home, my friends and I were rounded up and we were told if we did it again, we would get killed. Some of my friends stopped being in sports. I had many phone calls threatening me, that if I didn’t stop running, I would get killed. Lately, I do not have these problems. I think probably they realized we just wanted to be athletes and were not involved with the government.”
But the interim government has not been able to offer support, instead spending its cash and energy arming Ethiopian allies for the fight against insurgents. Other than organizing a meet to compete for Olympic selection – in which the Somali Olympic federation chose whom it believed to be its two best performers – there has been little lavished on athletes. While other countries pour millions into the training and perfecting of their Olympic stars,
“The food is not something that is measured and given to us every day,” Samia said. “We eat whatever we can get.”
On the best days, that means getting protein from a small portion of fish, camel or goat meat, and carbohydrates from bananas or citrus fruits growing in local trees. On the worst days – and there are long stretches of those – it means surviving on water and Angera, a flat bread made from a mixture of wheat and barley.
“There is no grocery store,” Abdi said. “We can’t go shopping for whatever we want.”
He laughs at this thought, with a smile that is missing a front tooth.
When the gun went off in Samia’s 200-meter heat, seven women blasted from their starting blocks, registering as little as 16 one-hundredths of a second of reaction time. Samia’s start was slow enough that the computer didn’t read it, leaving her reaction time blank on the heat’s statistical printout.
Within seconds, seven competitors were thundering around the curve in
As the athletes came to a halt and knelt, stretching and sucking deep breaths, a camera moved to ground level. In the background of the picture, a white dot wearing a headband could be seen coming down the stretch.
Until this month, Samia had been to two countries outside of her own – Djibouti and Ethiopia. Asked how she will describe
“The stadiums, I never thought something like this existed in the world,” she said. “The buildings in the city, it was all very surprising. It will probably take days to finish all the stories we have to tell.”
Before she can answer, Abdi cuts her off.
“I didn’t know what it
was when I saw it,” he said. “Is it plastic? Is it magic?”
Few buildings are beyond two or three stories tall in
“The Olympic fire in the stadium, everywhere I am, it is always up there,” Samia said. “It’s like the moon. I look up wherever I go, it is there.”
These are the stories they will relish when they return to
ling to find a television with a broadcast.
“People stayed awake to see it,” Farah said. “The good thing, sports is the one thing which unites all of
That is one of the common threads they share with every athlete at the Games. Just being an Olympian and carrying the country’s flag brings an immense sense of pride to families and neighborhoods which typically know only despair.
A pride that Samia will share with her mother, three brothers and three sisters. A pride that Abdi will carry home to his father, two brothers and two sisters. Like Samia’s father two years ago, Abdi’s mother was killed in the civil war, by a mortar shell that hit the family’s home in 1993.
“We are very proud,” Samia said. “Because of us, the Somali flag is raised among all the other nations’ flags. You can’t imagine how proud we were when we were marching in the Opening Ceremonies with the flag.
“Despite the difficulti
es and everything we’ve had with our country, we feel great pride in our accomplishment.”
As Samia came down the stretch in her 200-meter heat, she realized that the Somalian Olympic federation had chosen to place her in the wrong event. The 200 wasn’t nearly the best event for a middle distance runner. But the federation believed the dash would serve as a “good experience” for her. Now she was coming down the stretch alone, pumping her arms and tilting her head to the side with a look of despair.
Suddenly, the half-empty stadium realized there was still a runner on the track, still pushing to get across the finish line almost eight seconds behind the seven women who had already completed the race. In the last 50 meters, much of the stadium rose to its feet, flooding the track below with cheers of encouragement. A few competitors who had left Samia behind turned and watched it unfold.
As Samia crossed the line in 32.16 seconds, the crowd roared in applause. Bahamian runner Sheniqua Ferguson, the next smallest woman on the track at 5-foot-7 and 130 pounds, looked at the girl crossing the finish and thought to herself, “Wow, she’s tiny.”
“She must love running,”
Several days later, Samia waved off her Olympic moment as being inspirational. While she was still filled with joy over her chance to compete, and though she knew she had done all she could, part of her seemed embarrassed that the crowd had risen to its feet to help push her across the finish line.
“I was happy the people were cheering and encouraging me,” she said. “But I would have liked to be cheered because I won, not because I needed encouragement. It is something I will work on. I will try my best not to be the last person next time. It was very nice for people to give me that encouragement, but I would prefer the winning cheer.
She shrugged and smiled.
“I knew it was an uphill task.”
And there it was. While the Olympics are often promoted for the fastest and strongest and most agile champions, there is something to be said for the ones who finish out of the limelight. The ones who finish last and leave with their pride.
At their best, the Olympics still signify competition and purity, a love for sport. What represents that better than two athletes who carry their country’s flag into the Games despite their country’s inability to carry them before that moment? What better way to find the best of the Olympic spirit than by looking at those who endure so much that would break it?
“We know that we are different from the other athletes,” Samia said. “But we don’t want to show it. We try our best to look like all the rest. We understand we are not anywhere near the level of the other competitors here. We understand that very, very well. But more than anything else, we would like to show the dignity of ourselves and our country.”
She smiles when she says this, sitting a stone’s throw from a Somalian flag that she and her countryman Abdi brought to these Games. They came and went from