Rolling Through The Odds

Srinivasan Sriram from Tamil Nadu was part of the team that went to the 6th Tafisa  Games 2016 , Jakarta , Indonesia held from7 – 10 October 2016 . The team won a gold medal in Unified bocce Team event (4 a side ) and a silver and bronze in the Unified Doubles event. One team from Tamil Nadu (India) comprising of two Athletes and two partners participated at the event along with 8 more countries.

The Association for International Sport for All (TAFISA) is a non-profit organization serving as the leading organization for other organizations which manage and develop “Sport for All Movement” around the world. TAFISA sees sport for all as a major contribution to individual, social, community, and national life quality. It believes that sport for all and physical activities are basic human rights.For organizing sports in the disability segment TAFISA collaborated with Special Olympics Indonesia for Unified Bocce, and Bali Sports Foundation for Wheelchair Rugby.

For Srinivasan’s father the Unified Bocce Tournament held recently in Jakarta was an eye opener. He actually saw his son perform along with so many others who may have just as well passed as persons who would only attract sympathy or apathy. He played as Unified partner with his son. Sports  is now important tohim and he believes in its transformative character. He wants Srinivasan to participate actively in it.

Mr. Sriram  is financially well placed and has two sons.  One who acquired higher education overseas and the other is Srinivasan. On any regular day Mr. Sriram concentrates on his business and is unable to prioritize his son who needs special care , for which it is his wife who takes the lead. He is supportive but is unable to contribute directly to the needs of Srinivasan.

Dr PaulDevasagayam, Area Director , SO Bharat- Tamil Nadu, recalls his meetings with Mr. Srinivasan, 5-6 years back where he expressed his helplessness. ‘ With all the money that I have , I am unable to take care of Srinivasan. The stress is too much.”

Srinivasan, 23yrs, joined Special Olympics Bharat 5 years back. He is wheelchair bound, having X Syndrome (legs), a genetic disorder which includes mild to moderate Intellectual Disability. Unable to stand for more than a minute, taking Srinivasan into a sports program was a challenge Dr. Paul took up, confident of affecting a change. He personally got involved, being a Special Educator himself, mentored and Coached the Athlete. He began with understanding his physical condition which included, bend knees, low motor skills, inability to unfold his fists. He often hung his head down and his speech was affected too.

Using a pillow to separate his legs was one of the measures taken , although painful. Assisted walking practices were provided regularly. It was felt that Bocce would be the way to help him.  He started with handling a softball and was also given a Rubik’s cube to improve motor skills.It kept him occupiedalong with an added attraction of being colourful. Srinivasan participates in shot put also now

He participated at a National level Bocce Camp held recently in Patna, Bihar and won a  gold medal. Along with sports training,  ADL( Activities of Daily Living) was followed to prepare him to participate in Camps , independent of his parents. A change in his temperament has been observed, he is more confident, cheerful, complies with instructions. He completely understands his Coach’s message to him.

Along with having him strengthen his upper body , his lower body called for attention, which is where aquatics was considered. Gradually learning to paddle in water,  showed results. Along with Aquatics , his performance on the tracks improved and he was able to accomplish a 100metre walk without assistance. Srinivasan participated at the Special Olympics National Aquatics Camp held in Mumbai. He won Gold and Bronze medals.

 “We never believed in him.He never expressed what he wanted”, sayshis brother.“ We went to quite a few doctors, physiotherapists but never observed the change that we see now in him. His mood has changed,   he enjoys sports thoroughly and through that is willing to initiate so much more which is changing him gradually. The environment in our house has changed. We see his abilities which were largely unexplored”, says his mother, who is now President of the State Family Forum.

Srinivasan is also encouraged to work at the computer when he visits his father’s office.This is under the guidance of Dr. Paul who monitors his activities keeping in mind his overall improvement . Although Srinivasan is made to participate in a number of sporting activities , each with a specific perspective, he clearly shows his inclination to Bocce.