Good Causes

Keeping James on the ball

Like many parents Wendy Muckle was worried when she learned that schools would be closing as a result of the coronavirus.

The idea of motivating and home schooling her son James – an 18-year-old who has Down’s syndrome and attends the Marjorie McClure Special School in southeast London – seemed particularly daunting.

Wendy said, “When they announced the schools would be closed for 12 weeks I thought ‘Oh my God – I find the six-week school holidays really hard. This will be double that and we can’t even go out!

“I thought it was going to be really difficult because James loves going to school and I wondered if he’d take directions from me.”

Fortunately for Wendy, Guy Wilkins, Assistant Head Teacher at the Marjorie McClure Special School, recognised the challenge faced by parents. The school, which runs a sports programme supported by National Lottery funding, quickly set up a programme of activities designed to maintain students’ health and wellbeing during the lockdown.

Some of the ideas suggested as part of the scheme devised by Guy included games of washing line tennis, 10 pin bowling using plastic bottles, bocce using homemade balls and taking part in one of Joe Wicks’ online PE classes. The school provided further support and encouragement by arranging online conferencing calls between students and their teachers.

Guy, 60, said, “The lockdown is isolating – it’s been really tough for a lot of the young people I work with. We were keen to connect so we set up a YouTube channel and we’ve been sharing ideas and little films designed to help them keep active at home.”

James, a mad keen sportsman who plays football for the DS Eagles team started by Crystal Palace FC, readily embraced the challenges. When Guy suggested taking part in the 2.6 Challenge, James and Wendy ran and walked their way around a 2.6km course to raise money for the charity Mencap.

James also became a fan of Joe Wicks’ PE classes. Wendy said, “He started doing it every day. Even if I go out for a run, he’ll turn on the TV and do it on his own. A few people have said to me that James looks like he’s lost a bit of weight.”

The challenges, as well as Zoom calls with Guy and some of James’ other teachers, have helped the teenager stay motivated and active, said Wendy. She said, “It’s been invaluable. At the beginning of the week I’d get the Home Learning pack from the school containing the things they wanted us to do that week. The thing I looked at first was the wellbeing and physical development suggestions because they’re the things James really enjoys. I’d put those in my timetable for the week and build everything else around it. I’d say to James, ‘look, we’ll do Maths and English today, but look at what we’re doing tomorrow’. It really kept him motivated.”

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26th June 2020

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