In gym class, 6-grader Diana from Moscow easily serves, blocks, and returns the volley ball, winning a point for her team. It was only two years earlier that she was afraid to even get on a playing field, much less catch a ball. Diana has cerebral palsy and when she was born the doctors said she would never walk. Her Dad refused to believe the doctors, and through rehabilitation Diana learned to walk and then run, though she had no appetite for sports. The girl came to PE class without her gym clothes and sat on the sidelines.
The PE teacher had a suggestion for Diana: "Should we start with warm-ups? If you like it you can continue, and if you don't you can sit down and rest. If you practice, and come in your gym clothes, it will be more fun." Shyly agreeing, she enjoyed exercising with her classmates and came to the next class in her gym clothes.
"Sport helps to strengthen you physically. And that movement should be fun, so children receive satisfaction and don't lose interest. Gradually it will become a habit. If it is difficult for the child, he'll lose interest, and his overall condition and mood will worsen,” the PE coach explains.
The training sessions and seminars on adaptive physical education, run by Disability NGO Perspektiva, helped instructors and coaches use adaptive play to teach disabled children and involve them in PE classes. "These workshops taught me a lot. Meeting with teachers from other schools, we shared our experiences in finding a common language with children with disabilities. I learned from my colleagues about different approaches and was able to apply them to my teaching," explained Vladimir.
Her school also held master-classes in paralympic sporting events. Diana was inspired by the workshops with star para-powerlifters, one of whom is on staff at Perspektiva.
"My daughter came home from school and eagerly talked about the young woman of small stature who lifted heavy weights. Seeing other people with disabilities training, she was inspired to do so herself. She understood that she could reach her goal if she trained intensively," her father recounted.
Diana was interested in volleyball but was unable to hit the ball over the net. Then her teacher proposed she learn how to play pioneer ball. She first held the ball with both hands, and then threw it. Then he made the action more complicated, and Diana learned to hold the ball with one hand and hit it with the other. And if half a year earlier she was unable to hit the ball over the net, by the end of the year she could hit it deep into the opponents' side. "Now Diana plays even better than several of her classmates. And when the kids choose teams, everyone wants her on their side," the teacher said.