Thursday, 30 April 2015


P.E. has always been a minefield. I don’t mean that children at my daughter’s school play football on a minefield, that would be insane. Although it’d liven up Sports Day, wouldn’t it? 

No, I mean minefield in the sense of it being problematic. Over the years, as my girl has grown, her enthusiasm for partaking in physical education at school has covered the gamut of emotions (the gamut ranging from half-hearted to non-committal).

I understand this. Not because I was a serial PE shirker - quite the opposite. I loved sports at school for one simple reason: I was good at ’em. And that’s the crux of it, right there. If you’ve got good hand eye co-ordination, are strong, and reasonably fit (yeah, yeah, all right, well I was then, honestly), then sport is fun. Playing hockey, netball, tennis, rounders, etc, is enjoyable and invigorating (apart from the time I ran into a goalpost and nearly knocked myself out, and yes I realise this belies my earlier point about co-ordination).

But when you’ve got Prader-Willi Syndrome, and you’ve got poor muscle tone, and your brain takes a little while to process information, and it takes you forever to get changed, and you can’t keep up with everyone, and you can't catch very well, and you don’t like running about, and you get cold easily, and you’d rather be inside doing some colouring - then P.E. sucks.

When my daughter was at mainstream primary, the older she got, the less enthusiasm she displayed. We regularly had the P.E. day stomach ache. We occasionally had a P.E. day tantrum. The school reports euphemistically told us that there was ‘room for her to improve her participation levels’. Start actually moving about, in other words.

When she transferred to a special school, things improved slightly, as she realised she was no longer the ‘worst’ in the class. She was still Eddie The Eagle, but there was a little nest of other fledglings flapping about with her.

But it was when we moved house and my daughter transferred to her current school, that she really got off the blocks. Her P.E. teacher cottoned on to some of the little tricks required to motivate her. My girl had decided that she ‘didn’t do running,’ so when learning tag rugby or playing indoor cricket, she was told she wouldn’t have to run, she could do ‘fast walking’. The pace and the instructions were less frenetic and pitched at a level that didn’t overwhelm her. Her confidence improved, her stomach-aches vanished, and P.E. stopped being a Problem Everytime. She’s no Usain Bolt, but she doesn’t look like she’s bolted to the floor any more. 

And now, to my utter astonishment, my sports-averse, non-running, fast-walking daughter, has voluntarily joined Sports Zone, a local Saturday morning disabled sports club. 

So forget wildcard Goran Ivanisevic winning Wimbledon in 2001 (and stripping to his pants to celebrate when he returned to his home town in Croatia, although that’s a image that’s etched rather endearingly to my memory); forget Germany beating Brazil 7-1 in the 2014 World Cup semi-final; in fact, forget every sporting upset or surprise ever. This one trumps them all: my girl has chosen to do P.E. Out of school hours. At her own insistence. 

If only I’d laid a bet on that...

Video is Spoon - The Mystery Zone

This post first appeared in the April edition of PWS News, the newsletter of the Prader-Willi Syndrome Association UK. They have a very informative website here.

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