This article was written by Ella’s grandmother, my mother Joyce Richardson, who is a retired PE teacher. Mum has always been ahead of her time when it comes to education – her belief in children and what they can do, has influenced and shaped our journey in so many ways. This article is testament to the belief in people, the will to work with people and about giving everyone a seat at the table – it’s absolutely possible and wholly human.
‘All children need space and time to develop their abilities. Teachers must work alongside the child, listen to them and follow the child’s lead. This requires patience and a consistent approach, allowing the child to develop a trusting relationship so that learning can take place. However, if you are deafblind and have lost your distance senses, you need even more for teachers – and others – to have these qualities. This article shares the experiences of Ella – a 12-year-old girl who is deafblind – and how her family, teachers and coaches (Team Ella) have learned to adapt their delivery to ensure she has a positive experience of physical education (PE) and physical activity.
Ella is fortunate to have expert teachers in her life who have been encouraged by Ella’s mother to work with her. She was determined that a deafblind child should have the same access to PE that her siblings have. The teachers were asked to report on the success of their work with Ella and they all say they have learned so much from working with her. She has progressed – physically, mentally and emotionally – in leaps and bounds through their persistent and consistent efforts to give her the time to assimilate physical activities. Above all, they have been willing to work with Ella and her family to find what works for her. For example, Ella is non-verbal, although she is experimenting with words and trying out speech. As her grandmother, I noticed that if I sang an instruction or request or gave information to the tune of ‘Here we go round the mulberry bush’, she could process this and respond. Now, even though Ella is 12, all of her team use this strategy at times of stress or to help Ella process information if she seems to have difficulty in understanding. This is just one example of how the child, family and teachers can find and share solutions. The following reports from three of Ella’s teachers show how they have adopted this positive approach and made such an amazing contribution to her life.’