Sophia makes a goal and the whole team cheers: “Hurray!” The score is 3:1 and the other team is out. Sophia, the school team’s forward, is 13 years old. She has an intellectual development disability. She is in the 8th grade at Moscow School # 1748. Until she was 12 years old, Sophia lived in an orphanage, but 18 months ago she was adopted and now has a mother, father and two brothers.
“My adopted daughter grew up in an orphanage where no one spent time with the children. Like all the other children, she was left to her own devices. For that reason, her verbal skills are not developed. She doesn’t understand certain words and can’t always explain what she needs,” Sophia’s mother, Elmira, explained.
When her parents first brought Sophia to a regular school, she had a hard time. She had no idea how to behave with the other kids and would get very upset if a teacher made a critical comment. Sometimes she’d scream at her classmates. Naturally, the other children avoided her, and Sophia didn’t have any friends.
But everything changed when the school joined the project “Children in Motion. Together is Better!” The Perspektiva team held workshops and master classes for the physical education (PE) teachers to help them adapt their classes for children with disabilities.
“We explained to the teachers that all children with disabilities can be included in sports,” Olga Kotova, the head of the sports department of Perspektiva, said. “All you need is to understand their particular developmental issues and know how to present the material.”
Once he heard these recommendations, the PE teacher, Roman, realized that Sophia simply didn’t understand what the teacher said at first. But if you explained things again and made clear what was expected from her, Sophia understood everything. Roman saw that Sophia was interested in ball games and suggested that she join the football group. Sophia was delighted.
“Sophia has a powerful kick and she’s good at handling the ball,” Roman said. “She’s a strong player and plays in all the school matches.”
In just 18 months, Sophia fell in love with soccer. Her mother says that playing soccer has given her intellectual development a big boost. Sophia began to speak better, and she is more self-confident. Her teammates have become her friends, and now they hang out before and after the games.
“I love to play football more than anything else on earth. My dream is to play my whole life! I want to become a forward on a professional football team!” Sophia says.