Making children with disabilities physically stronger: Victor’s story
Victor Samuel is an 8 year old boy from the Cook Islands who has Cerebral Palsy. Victor has been involved with the OFC Just Play programme since February 2015 and when he first joined the programme he was unable to walk or stand unaided.
Within two years of continuous involvement with the Just Play programme and the support of his teachers the Just Play Volunteers and the community, Victor can now move and walk around unaided.
Victor suffered from cerebral palasy since birth and he was unable to walk or speak. Before joining the Just Play programme, Victor showed interest in sport but was usually forced to watch from the side-lines. Victor attends the Takitumu Primary School in the Matavera district on the beautiful island of Rarotonga, Cook Islands. There are no special schools for children with disabilities in the Cook Islands and children with disabilities attend regular schools. They are generally assigned to an assistant teacher who ensures their regular participation and development in school and other activities. Victor was assigned to Katreena Mataio, one such teacher’s aide.
Katreena participated in a Just Play teacher’s training course in February 2015 and began delivering Just Play sessions in her school along with Victor’s class. Disability Inclusion is one of the objectives of the programme and children with and without disabilities encouraged to play together and respect one another. Children with both physical and mental disabilities are encouraged to be involved.
Katreena was determined to make a positive difference to Victor’s life and she sought assistance from Just Play volunteers as well as the community. To encourage Victor to move and be physically active the community volunteers provided him with a walking frame. Katreena with the support and training received through the Just Play programme encouraged Victor to use the walking frame and move around school. It was not easy for Victor but the change happened slowly and surely with the catalyst of a positive environment.
With the continuous hard work, encouragement from his classmates, Katreena and the Just Play team, Victor started to be physically stronger and regularly participating in Just Play. Activities are adapted so that children with disabilities can participated and enjoy all the sessions.
Victor is now walking unaided and prefers not to use his walking aide even though his legs get tired often, he is gaining his strength every day. Now in Grade 5, Victor thrives on his inclusion and continues to gain strength through all the help he receives. Katreena and the Just Play programme have been a huge contributor to Victor’s development both inside and outside the classroom. The school has a very positive environment where Victor is widely accepted and is able to participate as much as possible.
Victor walking without assistance after being involved with Just Play for over a year