“Siblings take the responsibility perfectly. Especially these days with the Covid 19 crisis while the parents are occupied with organizing so much else, the siblings take over completely to keep their special siblings active, occupied & happy”, says Ms Sharmistha Basu, Principal, Asha AWWA School , Lucknow
At the SNF – supported Unified Skipping Competition virtual event held on 30 May 2020, many Unified pairs competed in a new sport, selected more for its conjunction with social distancing resonating the new normal. Hemant Singh, 20 years, and his sister Neha Singh 23 years from Lucknow, UP practiced and participated together, winning a Silver in Group 5 at the event.
At home, he was gaining weight. The idea of skipping was well received by the parents as it required no extra arrangements. “In these times we have to , as much as possible, get close to the interests of the parents as we are not there to motivate the Athletes. Here it is only the family that can encourage the Athlete to do a particular activity.” Skipping fitted very well.
Belonging to an army background Hemant and Neha are accustomed to participating in sporting events, but Special Olympics makes a difference“ Hemant has received ‘Consolation’ prizes and appreciation all the time but never the real , top ones- Gold Silver and Bronze; Special Olympics provides a sports platform that boosts the confidence by treating all its sorts persons as equal , making them frontrunners of competition and victory”- Neha Singh, currently pursuing Masters in PA from the Ambedkar University, New Delhi
Hemant was diagnosed with Classical Downs Syndrome at the age of 3. He studied in a mainstream school till the 8th grade. He joined the special wing of the Army Schools- Asha AWWA about two years back.
It is here that a transformation began to unfold, carrying him from a violent and dejected past to a more participative and a joyous environment. The mainstream school pressed the teachers to give individual attention to Hemant, who was a part of a large class. Hemant felt bullied, felt that he was a target of jokes by other students along with being unable to cope with studies. There were coping troubles on both sides. While Hemant did not fit into his age-appropriate class, he was bigger for the lower ones. “Children are not aware; even by giving special treatment to persons with special needs, they are demonstrating a mind-set” – Ms Sharmishtha
As he joined the Asha School, a change initiated but with challenges. He was placed under the mentorship of Ms Neelam Srivastava, his Coach. Carrying a baggage of being an under-achiever for so many years, Hemant took time to adjust to the change. He also may have felt being part of a ‘lesser’ school. However he comprehended authority very well, listening selectively to the Principal of the school initially. His previous teachers are surprised and delighted to see a sea-change in him.
Hemant joined Special Olympics the year he joined Asha School. He has participated at the State level in Bocce, Powerlifting, Floor Hockey and Floor ball. With his sister, Neha, he enjoys to swim, play basketball , watch movies, to cook and to listen to Bollywood music
“We have done sporting activities at leisure but the Unified skipping competition was fun as it made us compete with rival teams, together. That brought in a whole new excitement. But, I have always celebrated the victories of Hemant, each and every one of them, no matter how big or small it is”- Neha Singh