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Breaking down social inclusion barriers through sport

“Victor has cerebral palsy, the most common motor disability in childhood. Since birth, Victor has not been able to walk or talk and has been carried or pushed around in a pram.”

Rarotonga, known for its paradise-esque beaches and landscapes, is home to nine-year-old Victor.

Victor has cerebral palsy, the most common motor disability in childhood. Since birth, Victor has not been able to walk or talk and has been carried or pushed around in a pram.

Victor attends the same primary school as his brother Jaiden, and has a teacher’s aide named Katreena to help him throughout the day. Amongst other things, Katreena helps Victor participate in classes and activities with his peers.

In 2015, Katreena participated in a Just Play teacher-training course. Shortly after the training she began taking Victor and his entire class for Physical Education (PE) sessions.

At the beginning of the Just Play sessions, Victor was unable to walk but could stand if aided.

“Instead of being left to the side to play with a ball, we encouraged activities that Victor would be a part of. Victor thrived in the inclusion and it was such an inspiring thing to see,” Katreena said of the session.

Around this time, Victor was fortunate to receive a donation of a walking frame, which greatly assisted him in moving around the school unaided.

“It might seem like a small thing but this was a huge factor in building Victor’s strength and confidence. It also hugely contributed to his ability to participate in Just Play with his friends and classmates.”

Actively addressing social inclusion helps to breakdown barriers and marginalising behaviour, while nurturing deeper levels of respect and teamwork.

Victor’s school is already a very positive environment where he was widely accepted, and this has only gone from strength to strength.

“Through Just Play, more children in the school are accepting of Victor’s differences while also learning to understand his needs. Victor is included more in the classroom, Just Play activities and the playground.”

With the continuous hard work, encouragement and development from Katreena, along with being more active through Just Play and his walking frame, Victor is now walking unaided and prefers not to use his walking aide. Even though his legs sometimes get tired, he is continuing to gain strength.

Sport is an incredible equaliser for all age groups, but especially for children. Furthermore, the Convention on the Rights of the Child underlines that every child has the right to play. Just Play encourages engagement of children from all abilities and focuses more on the benefits of participation rather than competition.

Victor’s Story of Change was originally published in the Power of Sport

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