It was a show of courage and determination and it took months of practice to perfect.
The coordinated march past performed by autistic children at their annual sports meet showed that the sky is not the limit for them.
With the belief that ‘where there’s a will, there is a way’, 24 autistic children took part in the meet on the lawns of Indian School Ghubra on Friday. At first sight, one may find it difficult to distinguish them with other children as they have the same excitement, the same restlessness and the spirit of victory and loss. The annual sports meet was organised by the Special Children Group (SCG) Family, a support group for families with autism spectrum disorders.
“The annual meet provides a great platform to these children to recognise, empathise and bond with each other. Sports activities, physical and motor movements help them realise that they can do things like normal children but in a different way. This realisation is important for them to boost their performance,” said Dr Narayan Ramachandran, a volunteer at the SCG sports day.
Dr Ramachandran who is a senior consultant and head of the orthopaedic department at Armed Forces Hospital has developed a strong bond with autistic children over the years.
With music playing in the background, the excitement of the parents of autistic children and guests reached a crescendo as they saw them march with absolute precision followed by walking around the lawn in circles holding banners on ideals of life such as truth, peace, right conduct and love.
For the past three months, a sports teacher from Indian School Muscat helped these children to perfect their steps and hone their motor skills. They were not only trained for the sports activities but also told that sky is not the limit for them.
Speaking about the need to organise a sports day for autistic children, Dr Ramachandran said, “These days we see the parents of autistic children taking greater interest in finding ways of motivating them. We should also support them to integrate them in mainstream society.”
Dr Devyani Narayan, a guest who is a senior obstetrician and gynaecologist at Khoula Hospital, said, “This is the second year of activities and I am impressed with their attention span. There has been a greater participation this year. Proper training and intervention is the solution to motivate and prepare them for the future.”
When asked about the sports meet, nine year old Vibha Bhatt, said, “I enjoyed. Very good.”
R K Bhatt, father of Vibha, said, “We are grateful to the SCG family to help these children realise their true potential. It is important to keep them engaged and in a good mood.”
Sapna Soundarajan, a class VII student of Indian School Muscat also took part in SCG activities. Her father, V Soundarajan, said, “Sapna has mild traces of autism and her performance has been appreciated by many. We do not put pressure on her to perform but motivate her in her activities.”
Subramanian Muthukrishnan, chief financial officer and head of IT systems, Galfar Engineering and Contracting - Oman was the chief guest on the occasion.