Tania's note: Jo Grace is back to tell us about something you may like to get involved with!
Parallel London is the world's first fully inclusive fun push/run event being held at the Olympic Stadium on the 4th of September with a free festival alongside it.
I'm delighted to be an ambassador for Parallel London and to tell you all about the Super Sensory one kilometre, one of the many races taking place on the day.
Parallel London welcomes all people and hopes everyone will participate wholeheartedly on the day. We recognise that for some individuals a one off event, however fun, can be difficult to fully engage with. To support you in participating to the full we have created a Super Sensory 1km race suitable for those wishing to participate in a sensory way.
Super Sensory, super-inclusive
The Super Sensory 1km requires participants to exercise their senses over a 1km course comprised of a multitude of sensory experiences.
It may be particularly suited to:
- individuals with profound and multiple learning disabilities;
- individuals on the autistic spectrum who engage with the world in a primarily sensory way and welcome the opportunity to rehearse a situation before entering it;
- individuals who need sensory support in order to be able to remember an event, these may be people with late stage dementia, people with specific brain damage, people with severe learning disabilities.
Of course the sensory world is a lot of fun, and sensory stimulation supports everyone’s memory, so although the Super Sensory may be particularly suited to some participants, that doesn't mean everyone else cannot enjoy it too.
There are also no finish times so you can complete the course in the time that suits you. It’s about participation not competition. But those wishing to compete can do so against themselves as everyone will be timed so the option is there to challenge yourself, can you complete the course in a certain time?
The Super Sensory one kilometre can be ‘trained’ for just like any other race, it can also be re-run through the senses after the event as a way of connecting with a memory of the day. ‘Training’ for the Super Sensory 1km will support sensory participants to be able to fully engage on the day. The sensory experiences selected to be a part of the Sensory 1km have been chosen to be as engaging as possible to maximise the opportunity to participate.
How do you include someone with a profound disability in a sporting event?
Is it not, by it's very nature, an exclusive event: only for those who are physically able? Well, we have to think about what sport means, the very first part of the Oxford English Dictionary definition says it is “An activity involving physical exertion and skill.”
If you imagine a sporting great you probably imagine someone who tries really hard, someone who pushes up against the limits of what is possible for their body, someone who persists in spite of pain and obstacles and injury and set back.
If I do a line up in my mind’s eye of everyone, it's those I know with profound and multiple learning disabilities easily stand shoulder to shoulder with Jess Ennis and Paula Radcliffe. These are individuals disabilities who fight to use their bodies on a daily, hourly, minute by minute basis, who try so hard that sometimes they fall asleep exhausted by their exertions.
These people have to practice hundreds and hundreds - even thousands and thousands of times - to master their faculties so they can use their eyes for seeing, their hands for reaching out and touching things.
Cheer them for their achievement
And so on the day when you see them competing in the Super Sensory 1km, don’t cheer them on out of a sense of, “Oh how cute”. You wouldn’t do that to Jess, or to Paula; cheer them on as the athletes they are.
The Super Sensory 1km participants will be able to test their seven sensory systems against experiences designed to appeal and challenge them. The final 100 meters of the race will merge with the final 100 meters of those completing the longer events, adding an extra element for the sensory participants of the colour, noise and companionship of the other racers. It will also make a symbolic statement that no matter what time we took to complete the course, whatever course we did and how physically able we are, at Parallel London we all finish as equals together.
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