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pic/ wooden posts students use during physiotherapy

Just ended my first try at helping out with physiotherapy at the school. It was a really eye-opening experience and I only wish that I could have started helping out earlier.

Zhan Hao, Matt and I entered the physiotherapy room and were surprised to find the teacher(Laoshi) with only two students. Apparently, most of them had reported sick, due to bad weather the past couple of days. Nonetheless, she said that she could use with our help. So we took out our shoes and stepped onto the pink yoga mats covering the entire floor.

There was a young boy and an older girl. The boy was rather talkative and cheery as he chatted with Laoshi, regarding a friend of his who had taken to playing with the elevator (in their school) during nap time. The girl seems to have more difficulty with mobility, having to lean against the cabinets along the wall for support and some assistance to lie on the yoga mats.

The first task was to crawl forward with palms and knees on the ground to the mirror and back, four sets. The little boy took off but the girl was slower and had some difficulty with crawling. This was her first physiotherapy session in awhile, Laoshi said. She had missed a few session previously as it was raining and her grandfather could not send her to school. I noticed that the main problem of her crawling was that her hands tend to curl into fists and fists do not provide good balance for crawling. Thus I crawled alongside her, prompting her to open her hands, with palms flat on the ground. She warmed to me and together we started crawling faster and completed the sets together.

Xiaoxiao (I asked for her name) soon grew confident and she decided to try shuffling forward in a kneeling position. However, that was really challenging for her, for she fell forward within three shuffles. While waiting for us to complete the sets, Laoshi was stretching the little boy’s legs and making him do sit-ups. Now she came over to do the same thing. I was to pin her arms down while she pushed Xiaoxiao’s legs apart to stretch them. However, due to the fact that Xiaoxiao had not stretched in a long time, it was very painful for her. She tried very hard to withstand the pain but as Laoshi pushed her legs further apart, the pain soon grew too much for her to bear and she started struggling and crying out. I was at a loss of what to do, for she sounded like she was really in pain, but still Laoshi pushed on, telling Xiaoxiao to bear with the pain. Xiaoxiao continued to cry out and struggle so I helped Laoshi to pin down one of her knees while Laoshi said comforting words and helped massage her thighs. Laoshi explained that if we did not stretch Xiaoxiao’s leg muscles, it would only grow harder for her to open up her legs and this would cause her mobility to decrease further. Xiaoxiao continued to struggle and cry out, while all I could do to help was to pin her knee down and cheer her on with words of encouragement. It was a very heart wrenching experience but it was all for her own good.

After the stretching, we took a rest and then Xiaoxiao was to do leg crunches while I helped to count them. This was very heart wrenching as well, for Xiaoxiao has some problem lifting her left leg up and Laoshi instructed me to not count those crunches where her left leg did not go up high enough. Xiaoxiao struggled while doing the first thirty crunches and I had to tell her when her left leg was not raised to the proper height. We took a rest after the first thirty but after that, Xiaoxiao was on a roll. She started doing better leg crunches and when we hit another thirty, I was so overjoyed but to my surprise, she continued on, without resting. Initially, i felt really horrible telling her that her left leg was not raised up properly and thus would not add up to the count but I realised that Xiaoxiao could actually push herself harder and do standard leg crunches. I helped her count as she did up to a hundred leg crunches and we just smiled at each other, basking in the shared sense of accomplishment.

After leg crunches, Xiaoxiao practised stepping on the rungs of wooden posts at the back of the room. At first, she required some help; she would raise her leg and Laoshi would guide her feet onto the first rung of the wooden post. However, she started warming up and could start to put her own feet onto the wooden posts. She even attempted to step higher onto the the second rung, but I think due to her lack of practice, she faltered but still it was a valiant attempt. I was very heartened. As Xiaoxiao was working on the wooden post, her Yeye (grandfather) came into the room and watched her, smiling all the time. Xiaoxiao’s eyes lit up when she saw Yeye and I could feel that she pushed herself harder, stepping more confidently on the rungs. It was a very moving sight to behold, grandfather and granddaughter; both undoubtedly pillars of strength for each other.

When this session ended, Zhan Hao told me and Matt that on normal days, Laoshi has to face five or more students in one physiotherapy session and my heart really went out to her, for from this session alone, I could see that she definitely needed all the help she could get.

I came to this physiotherapy session to help, and I left it humbled. Xiaoxiao has taught me more than what I have helped her in; respect for all disabled people, for I have seen how much more determination they require to go about their daily lives and also appreciation for the healthy body that we have, that we take for granted every day of our lives, mobility that others cannot even dream of achieving and that we spare no second being thankful for.

I am thankful.

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Hey there, I’m Joei! I am currently in SUTD Floorball and Dance Derivativez. Running is one of my favourite ways of stress-relieving; it makes me feel very zen and alive. I also like art and design and painting banners was my specialty back in junior college days. I believe that everyone can do art; all they need is some patience. I also enjoy traveling and immersing myself in the local culture. The last time I had a chance to do overseas CIP was in junior college where we went to Nepal and conducted English, science and arts lessons for the children. It was a life-changing experience, interacting with the local children and I am grateful for this chance by TF to help out at Hushu Special School.


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