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On the 3rd December 2018, we celebrated International Day of Persons with Disabilities. The aim of the day was to promote the understanding of disability issues and raise awareness for the dignity, rights and well-being of persons with disabilities.
The day started with a special guest in our morning worship. The whole school had the pleasure of listening to Rob Frank, an inspirational speaker on disability. Rob is an ex England cricketer who found a bone tumour in his leg and eventually after many operations, raised funds to have his leg amputated, to end the years of pain he had had to bear. Rob received thousands of pounds from people he had never met, and this gave Rob the push he needed to fight on with his passion for sport and he now coaches cricket and plays for Middlesex disability cricket team. Rob Franks’ remarkable story, spread across seven years and four major operations, highlights the power of human spirit, the kindness of strangers and the importance of positive thinking.
Yr5 and Yr6 alternately spent time with Rob Newton, a disability cricket coach, and Steve who is registered blind. Both Rob and Steve started with a “blindness awareness” presentation, which helped sighted students become familiar with the tools and techniques of blindness and learn ways to interact with and promote the inclusion of visually impaired people.
This was then followed by a meeting with Aaron Phipps. Aaron is a former Great Britain Wheelchair Rugby player and London 2012 Paralympic athlete. As a teenager Aaron contracted meningitis C and meningococcal septicaemia (blood poisoning). This deadly disease developed from seemingly harmless flu like symptons which 12 hours later saw him on a life support machine. Aaron was in a coma for two weeks. Aaron had to have both legs and most of his fingers amputated. Overall Aaron spent a year in hospital.
Aaron never gave up on his love of life and sport and eventually, due to hard work was selected to be part of the Wheelchair Rugby team for Great Britain in the London 2012 Paralympic games where he scored over half of the overall points for the team. One of our favourite moments was when he shared some video of an amazing tackle he made on the captain of the American team, sending him flying through the air….!!
Then in 2016 Aaron set himself the ultimate challenge of climbing Mount Kilimanjaro, the highest mountain in Africa. Aaron was the first disabled British person to climb Kilimanjaro without assistance.
Aaron spent the morning with YR6 and the afternoon with YR5 talking openly about his life and running workshops to promote disability. Aaron was a truly genuine and lovely person, who had an unbelievable attitude and determination to achieve. Yr5 and Yr6 children loved the activities and they learnt invaluable lessons during this session. His message ‘Set a goal, get organised, ask for help, work hard, we all have choices’ was perfect for the children and they took this message away with them.
Aaron then closed our day with an engaging, inspirational and motivating assembly to years 1-4.
The rest of the school were not to be left out.
Throughout the day, classes were visited by Gayle Johnson, who works for Vision Support Services. Gayle discussed with the children about all the supports provided for visual impaired children and the different types of impairments. Gayle brought in special types of glasses that simulated different types of visual impairments and helped the children have a greater understanding and empathy for people with visual impairments.
Another visitor on our special day was 12 year old Adam Sevenoaks, who was diagnosed with Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy, a severe degenerative muscle wasting disease, which will unfortunately lead to paralysis and will significantly shorten his life.
Adam visited each classroom, armed with his powerpoint and discussed his love of football, especially Powerchair football and his favourite team Bournemouth. Adam is a natural speaker and had an engaging way of telling his story, that grabbed the attention of all the children.
In between the visitors, the teachers discussed and raised awareness about the Invictus Games and the history of the Paralympics with the children. They listened to Prince Harry’s opening speech and watched highlights of Sydney’s Invictus Games this year.
As well as visitors during classroom time, we tried to raise awareness of young carers across the UK. A young carer is someone under 18 yrs old who helps to look after a relative with a disability, illness or mental health condition. It has been estimated that 700,000 children and young people across the UK, some as young as five years old, are caring for family members. This was a very moving discussion in most of the classrooms and provoked many questions.
On a daily basis we strive to support our children to make independent positive choices in all aspects of their life and learning. By celebrating National day of Persons with Disabilities, we hope we found another perspective to give our children the belief in themselves that they can aspire to be the best they can be, to embrace and understand disability more clearly, to challenge the perception about disability and show that we can all overcome barriers and achieve.
This was an amazing day, a day that I think we will never forget.
Mrs Finnigan, Head of PE