Stone Oak Elementary School Hosts “Strother Challenge”
By Alissa Reinhard
On November 27, eleven-year-old, Strother Norman spent the day at Stone Oak Elementary School training faculty members and fourth graders on skills requiring the use of a wheelchair for the entire school day. Strother is wheelchair bound after a car accident at the age of five. He created the “Strother Challenge” in 2016 and implemented it in his elementary school in Ft. Worth. Now, he tours the state giving others a glimpse into the life of a child with a disability.
In order to participate in the “Strother Challenge,” Stone Oak Elementary fourth graders who were interested completed an application and agreed to journaling their experiences afterward. Seven students were selected and seven teachers volunteered.
“We loved having our students and staff participate in the ‘Strother Challenge’ because we are in the business of educating students, and educating a student is not only about academics,” explained Ida Nunez, Stone Oak Elementary Assistant Principal. “It is also about improving their social and emotional skills. The ‘Strother Challenge’ is a great way to educate our students on what it is like to have a mobility challenge. It exposes them to what it’s actually like to be in a wheelchair every minute of every day.”
Although the challenge was only a small glimpse into the life of a mobility challenged person, it was enough for the students to understand some of the issues they face on a daily basis.
Strother arrived at Stone Oak Elementary with his grandparents and was welcomed with a campus tour. When he was taken to the playground, several students came up and introduced themselves, shaking Strother’s hand.
“Strother is a celebrity around here!” said Nunez.
Then, after school, wheelchair training took place in the gym. Strother and Brooke from Warm Springs Rehabilitation Hospital reviewed wheelchair basics and safety with students and teachers. They practiced using the wheelchairs through the hallways and opening doors, which proved to be a challenge. Strother’s lessons also include demonstrating how to turn, slow down, go down hills, and go up ramps. The idea is to show participants the difficulties and challenges that many face on a daily basis. This type of activity allows children without disabilities to gain a glimpse into the life of a child with a disability, and provides an opportunity to encourage compassion and inclusion.
“I think the ‘Strother Challenge’ taught out students and staff to be more open-minded, to see things from other peoples’ perspectives, and to be more empathetic,” said Nunez. “Our students are already accepting of other people’s differences, but this just really shifted their paradigm on the struggles that mobility challenged people face.”