A Sporting Chance

Sarah Brisdion by Sarah Brisdion Additional Needs

Sarah Brisdion

Sarah Brisdion

I am Sarah. Mum to nine-year-old twins, Erica and Hadley. They were born at 27 weeks gestation and as a result, Hadley has Cerebral Palsy - Spastic...

Well that will teach me to worry. Because he is the complete opposite. He is sport obsessed!

He’ll watch pretty much anything, but I guess his top three would be football, cricket and formula one! 

But he’s not content with just watching sport. He plays LOTS of sport and absolutely throws himself into everything. And he is VERY competitive! 

He rides (horses and donkeys) with the RDA (Riding for the Disabled Association).

He plays cricket (he is a mean bowler and his hand-eye coordination is way better than mine!), tennis, wheelchair rugby and table tennis, as well as football (with a bit of help from his dad or grandad).

He also loves bowling, swimming and cycling (he has a special trike). He’s even tried his hand at fencing!

I’m sure there are other things I’ve missed off the list too.

Occasionally, the frustration and upset I worried about will rear its head, but it’s very rare.

In fact, 99% of the time he is in his element when he is throwing, kicking or hitting some sort of ball or involved in some sort of race!

What’s so wonderful is that playing sport for Hadley is the most amazing therapy. (As it is and would be for many children with or without special needs).

Tennis in particular has been incredible for him and we’ve seen dramatic improvements in his core tone since he has been having wheelchair tennis lessons.

The reaching and stretching he manages and the coordination required when holding a racket is amazing and we would never be able to convince him to do these during normal physiotherapy.

He would find it very hard and would complain and most likely refuse.

But his love for sport means he fights the pain barrier and tries so hard. He’s doing himself so many favours without even realising it, making himself stronger and more independent by the day.

Horse riding also helps his core tone and balance no end. But more than anything, provides a stretch of his legs that we could not achieve any other way, not without serious protest and/or discomfort.

And of course emotionally, the contact with animals (particularly horses and donkeys) is very theraputic and calming. Win-Win!

And this summer, of course, we have added the Paralympics to his list of sport viewing choices.

He is really enjoying watching anyone competing in a wheelchair.

I’m convinced that after the games we’ll see him self-propelling more, just to be like the guys and gals in Rio.

He’s also very likely to choose a new sport after watching the games - I’m just hoping it’s not stunts like Aaron Fotheringham - did you see that jump during the opening ceremony?

All I could think was, "His poor parents.." - they must have been having kittens!

I was never very sporty as a kid. I liked watching sports, but was not exactly the most skilled at taking part and so preferred to watch others and cheer them on. But I really would have loved to have been good at sport.

So it is wonderful to see how much Hadley enjoys it and how good he is! Competition fuels him and he is so passionate. He cannot hide his excitement for sport and I love that he has that.

I am so determined to keep fueling that passion and keep removing any obstacles that might come his way. I’m sure that some sports will be more of a challenge than others, but where there is a will there is a way.

I believe it’s just about finding the right way, and sometimes the right person to help.

When we approached our local tennis club about giving Hadley some lessons, we happened to be contacting the right place for him, without even knowing it.

The coaches there have been coaching a wonderful guy who is now playing for Britain in the Quads wheelchair tennis competitions. He happens to have the same type of Cerebral Palsy as Hadley and he also happens to be a really nice guy.

He has watched Hadley play and given him some tips.

His dad also has been fantastic, adapting one of his son’s old tennis wheelchairs for Hadley to use during his lessons - he looks like a real pro.

All of this has inspired Hadley to try really hard and he absolutely loves his lessons. I’d really recommend them to any child who needs to develop their fine and gross motor skills as well as core tone.

It’s possibly the best thing we’ve ever done for Hadley therapy-wise. But he does not look at it as therapy at all!

Of course it’s not just physical therapy - exercise and concentrating on something so intensely is also great for stress relief as well as aiding sleep (I say that quite loosely as Hadley’s sleep patterns are far from ideal, but on a big sporting day, he really does sleep more soundly.)

I could talk about the benefits of sport for hours, but I won’t. Not tonight.

Because having taken Hadley horse riding (I was his side walker for an hour!) and playing cricket and football in the garden with him before bed tonight, I’m pretty tired too!


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