Oscar’s story

Oscar’s story
Posted on Wed 4 Nov 2020

Oscar is a charming, effervescent 11-year-old boy with a passion for sports and drama. He supports Real Madrid, loves to play cricket, basketball, long jump, and has represented the state in swimming and running.

His mum, Lucy believes he’s destined for the stage or the Olympics – or both! Oscar wants to do it all, and he will, with the support of his family, school and CPA.

Currently in year 6, Oscar lives with Down syndrome. He will soon be transitioning to a new high school for year 7. Mum Lucy wants Oscar to be truly integrated in this new environment. Lucy’s experience so far has been that Oscar, and other children with disabilities, are often not included, particularly in sport. She feels this puts Oscar at a disadvantage and stigmatises him.

“In a mainstream school he gravitates to mainstream kids because he’s high functioning and he identifies with them. I understand that mainstream schools have to keep everyone safe and cater for the lowest denominator, but Oscar isn’t the lowest denominator. It’s not a one size fits, and it creates incredible frustration for him,” says Lucy.

 

Preparing for the move

Today, Oscar’s biggest challenges are self-regulating his fluctuating emotions and behaviour, improving communication skills, and increasing his independence.

Lucy also anticipates that Oscar will find a new and bigger school environment challenging to find his way around initially.

“I want Oscar to have genuine relationships, to have a girlfriend or boyfriend, whichever way he wants to go, and enjoy all the things anyone else experiences,” says Lucy.

Going into secondary school and into his teens, Lucy believes Oscar would benefit from some youth coaching, being involved in a sex education type group, or a social group where they can discuss appropriate friendships and mirror these experiences under supervision. These programs will equip Oscar with the skills to build meaningful relationships, engage with his peers, and form firm friendships.

Lucy would also love Oscar to participate in an independent living skills course involving cooking, basic money management, catching transport, and shopping.

“He wants to have a girlfriend and jump on the bus, but he wouldn’t know which stop to get off at. He has the desire but not the ability, so we’re constantly at battle trying to meet him halfway to allow him some independence, but in a safe way,” says Lucy.

 

Building on existing support

Sport and physical activity is a big part of Oscar’s existing support strategy with CPA.

“Sport is a real leveller at school. Kids go “wow he can swim, he can play basketball, and he’s actually really good.” It’s his way in, it’s the way he integrates through all levels of society,” says Lucy.

And for Oscar, it has an additional snowball effect, where it positively impacts all areas of his life. Expending his energy makes him happier and helps him regulate his emotions and release frustrations, which then enables him to be ready to sit, listen, read, and behave appropriately. Oscar’s primary school teachers allow him frequent exercise breaks as a reward, because they’ve recognised it helps him to re-calibrate and focus.

At CPA, Oscar regularly attends the Multi-Sports program and the Multi-Sports Holiday program, working with CPA Exercise Physiologist William. Heading into secondary school, Lucy is keen for Oscar to work with a trainer at CPA in the gym. While he loves gym work and is super active, he does find it easier to focus with supervision.

“He has so much energy and has found his passion in sport. He’s very good with gross motor skills – he can ride a bike and climb up a wall, but he struggles with fine motor skills like writing and puzzles – part of that is due to low muscle tone and part is where his interests lie,” says Lucy.

Oscar also works with one of CPA’s Behaviour Psychologists to continue working on his current goals of finding and keeping friends, emotional regulation and socially appropriate behaviour.

These sessions help Oscar understand how he is feeling, how to control his emotions, and begin steps into learning about sex education.

 

The big step to secondary school

Moving to secondary school is a big and exciting step for Oscar. The first big leap is getting Oscar into their first choice of school; one which focuses on independent living skills as part of the curriculum, so Oscar has the opportunity to be the best he can. Lucy and Richard wish for Oscar to have lots of social and sporting interaction with typical children because this is where Oscar learns appropriate behaviour and is supported in the wider community.

Whatever else arises during this journey, Oscar and Lucy will address at the time with the support of the school and CPA experts.

 

CPA Student Success Guides

Secondary school might seem scary, but at CPA, we’re here to help you make it a great success.

How do you develop independence, build healthy friendships, get in to good study habits, feel like you belong and eventually transition from school in to the community? These are big questions that we’re excited to help answer.

To ensure students can achieve the best possible outcomes during this crucial life stage, we’ve created the CPA Student Success Guides.

Each guide has been informed by evidence based thinking and long-time learnings. We’ve also looked closely at the Australian Curriculum, to see where our programs and services align, not only within curriculum, but also with the known educational, social and emotional goals of students as they journey through secondary school.

The full kit includes three guides, each covering two school years: Years 7 & 8, 9 & 10, and 11 & 12.

This kit will assist teachers, parents, and students living with a disability to discover the wide range of fun and engaging programs and services students can access through CPA to support achievement of those goals.

Learn more and download the guides here: https://cerebralpalsy.org.au/cpa-youth/cpa-student-success-guides/

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