Children in Motion: Together is Better

by Regional Society of Disabled People Perspektiva
Children in Motion: Together is Better
Children in Motion: Together is Better
Children in Motion: Together is Better
Children in Motion: Together is Better
Children in Motion: Together is Better
Children in Motion: Together is Better
Children in Motion: Together is Better
Children in Motion: Together is Better
Children in Motion: Together is Better
Children in Motion: Together is Better
Children in Motion: Together is Better
Children in Motion: Together is Better

As Nastya readied herself for sled team practice, her mother secured her upper body and legs to the sled. Touching the ice a few times with her sticks, she sped off and was soon out of sight. Nastya was the first girl to play on the boys’ sled hockey team and quickly became a forward: “I enjoy scoring goals and watching as the goalkeeper misses the puck flying into the net.

Nastya, 16, has autism and ADHD. Before joining the hockey team, she had difficulty paying attention in school. She became easily overexcited, making it hard to express her thoughts.

According to Yury, her physical education teacher, “Nastya did not understand socializing. For example, during warm-up exercises, she would run away from the team and play alone with a ball, not responding to the teacher’s instructions.

Everything changed when Perspektiva began to organize and hold inclusive sports activities at Nastya’s school. A workshop on sled hockey was one of these activities. Students from her class were invited to participate. Workshop participants also visited an ice-skating arena, Morozovo Stadium, where they met members of the adult team, learned about the game, and had the opportunity to play.

Initially, Nastya's mother was worried about her getting hurt: “While initially Nastya dreamed of playing hockey, that sport often causes injuries. But sled hockey is less dangerous, as the player is secured to the sled. So, I agreed and Nastya joined the team shortly after meeting the other players.

Nastya has been playing sled hockey for more than three years. She enjoys being part of a team and was very upset when practice was cancelled during the lockdown. Her mother noted that sport has had a positive impact on both Nastya’s physical health and social adaptation: “Nastya has made new friends. She is a valued team player and her teammates respect her. The team participates in tournaments and festivals in other cities. This sport has brought her new experiences and positive emotions. My daughter has become more focused and goal oriented. She has gained stamina and learned how to manage her emotions and exercise self-control.” 

The physical education teacher participated in Perspektiva’s training in adaptive physical education, where he learned how to include children with disabilities in sports and PE classes and put his new knowledge and skills into practice. For instance, because people with autism can be visual thinkers, the teacher paired Nastya with a non-disabled peer, who showed her the correct movements. She repeated them over and over until she performed the movements properly. This is also how she learned to play football.

According to Nastya’s physical education teacher, “People on the spectrum are considered “less emotional” and “incapable of being team players”. Nastya defies these stereotypes. Like any child, autistic children are able to make friendships, feel empathy and team spirit. Sled hockey helped Nastya experience and express emotions, strive to play well and win. She has also become more focused and attentive in school.”

Nastya is looking forward to going back to school after studying online in order to return to the ice to prepare for new games and victories!

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As soon as the Coronavirus quarantine ended and children were allowed out onto the soccer pitch, Artyom grabbed his ball and took off like a shot. He finished sixth grade in a St. Petersburg school #25, and it’s hard to believe that just a few years ago this daring kid was overweight and lagged behind his peers in athletic ability. Artyom has cerebral palsy and his left hand has been frozen in a fist since he was born. His mother Yelena recalls, “He couldn’t make anything out of clay or do chin-ups. His classmates made fun of him. Artyom would get upset and complain that he didn’t need his ‘bad’ left hand.”

Artyom wasn’t interested in any sports, and since his hand was always a fist, he was afraid to play catch. But everything changed after the organization “Perspektiva” began to hold events in his school as part of the Nike-funded project “Children in Motion: Together is Better!” Together with the other kids at his school and their Phys. Ed. teacher, Artyom took a class trip to the stadium to cheer on the St Petersburg football team Zenith at all the championship matches. That’s all it took to turn the boy into a soccer fan. “I really like Artyom Dzyuba! He’s got the same name as me, and I want to play forward, too!” Artyom said.

After the first match he saw, Artyom came home and told his mother that he was now a soccer player, and he asked her to sign him up for classes. Several times a week he goes to play soccer with kids without disabilities. To get into good shape, Artyom started to work out. “He began to jog and work out on gym equipment,” his mother said, “even though before he was too lazy to walk just one stop on public transportation. He used to act like it was punishment.”

Artyom stopped being afraid of the ball, and after some workshops on adaptive physical education the teacher realized how to involve this child with a disability into sports. “Artyom did the same drills as the other kids,” his Phys. Ed teacher Vladimir said, “but he did them with one hand. And he learned to run. In the spring he took first place in the shuttle run test.”

Artyom is crazy about soccer. He goes to the pitch in his courtyard every day he doesn’t have training. His mother noticed that when he got involved in sports, he was able to sit longer and do his homework better. Now he’s motivated. “If I behave, they’ll take me to a Zenith match at the stadium!”

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In a photo album of a camping trip to Karelia, there’s a shot of 9th grader Kostya chopping wood like a pro. Kostya, who attends School #1748 in Moscow, has an intellectual disability. This was his first camping trip, sleeping in tents for 10 days in the winter, and his first time traveling 1,000 kilometers away from his mother. “We put up the tents, and it was cold. We made dinner over the fire ourselves,” Kostya said.

His mother, Svetlana, recalls how nervous she was. “It was scary to let him go — anything could happen to him, anything could go wrong. I was worried that he wouldn’t be able to handle it, that he’d be cold all the time or forget to put on his hat. So, at first, like any mother, I tried to talk him out of it. But he said, ‘I promised, so that means I’ll go.’”

It’s hard to believe that this powerful young man was once a shy little boy in middle school who would cry for 10 minutes if a ball tapped him accidentally. At the time Kostya was overweight, so he couldn’t keep up with his classmates in gym class. He was inspired to work out by a sports master class held by Perspektiva as part of the Nike project “Children in Motion. Together is Better” in which athletes with disabilities, soccer players and Paralympic athletes visit schools.

“He was a big kid in glasses, so his classmates weren’t interested in getting to know him,” Olga Kotova, the head of Perspektiva’s sports section, said. “Kostya was shy. I told him about how I do sports even though I have a physical disability, and we played soccer together. He saw that I treated him as an equal, and that helped him accept himself. And he got interested in sports,” she said.

First Kostya began to work out in the fitness center, and then he got interested in camping. His Phys. Ed. teacher, Roman, said, “When I suggested a camping trip, I warned everyone right away that it would be a real ordeal. I told them it would be hard, cold, but that they’d love it. I worried that Kostya might not make it. But he really grew up. He became a lot more self-confident and decided to take up basketball.”

Kostya’s mother says that he has become more independent, which will come in handy in the coming year. He is entering a vocational school where he’ll study to become a hardware service technician.

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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.

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Yura, a third-grader in Moscow School # 709, used to spend Physical Education (PE) class sitting on the bench and his evenings playing computer games. Yura has a gallstone disorder, and his parents were worried about letting him play active sports.

But that all changed when the school Yura attends joined the Nike project “Children in Motion: Together is Better!” As part of the project, Yura met the world-famous soccer player Ronaldo at Gorky Park in Moscow. That shook up Yura’s world: he instantly became a soccer fan. He followed the Russian team in the 2018 World Cup and then decided that he wanted to go out onto the field and play himself. “I love soccer more than anything!” he said. “I love to play with the team. If I’m a forward, I try to make goals. If I’m a goalie — I try to stop them!”

Specialists from the disability NGO Perspektiva held training sessions for the school teachers on adapting PE for kids with disabilities or special education needs and taught them the main principles of inclusive sports. For Yura, his PE teacher Vladimir saw that they needed to begin with non-contact sports before sending him out onto the soccer field. “There are a lot of games, like “pass the ball” where the kids pass the ball to the player in front, or “sniper” where they need to get the ball through the hoop more than their competitors. These games are part of the training for soccer and basketball, and they help the kids get over their fear of being hit by the ball. They learn skills, too — how to catch, throw and pass the ball,” Vladimir explained.

And so gradually, step by step, Yura began to play soccer. And now it’s his favorite team sport. And why not? Playing on the field is great fun. Yura has made new friends, too, and is more and more confident in himself and his abilities.

Yura’s mother, Yelena, is really happy for him. “Now my son kicks around the ball in the courtyard with his friends, not just in PE class. He dreams of becoming the best goalie in the world!”

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Organization Information

Regional Society of Disabled People Perspektiva

Location: Moscow - Russia
Facebook: Facebook Page
Twitter: @Perspektiva
Project Leader:
droza08 Roza
Moscow, Russia
$21,326 raised of $65,000 goal
201 donations
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