My name is Fahsai Saejang. I was born with Down Syndrome and a hole in my heart. My biological mother left the family when she realized I had an intellectual disability. I now live with my father and step-mother. When I was younger, I needed medication every day. As a toddler, I got breathless easily and my parents forbade me to take part in any physical activity. They feared that I would exhaust myself. I stayed at home most of the time. When the neighborhood kids played, I watched quietly by the sidelines.
When I was 4, my doctor recommended that I enrolled in a provincial special education centre in Southern Thailand. That was where my parents learned about the Special Olympics Young Athletes program. I was encouraged to play games, and make friends with other children.
My parents changed their mindset too, after seeing how much fun I had at the Young Athletes workshops. They realized that the games were beneficial for my health. The physical activities were making me stronger and I wasn’t as breathless as before. The doctor said I could reduce my medication. I also came out of my shell and found the confidence to make friends. I became more lively and talkative.
Every day since then, my parents use the skills they learnt at the Young Athletes program to create new games and toys for me at home. They use buckets, bottles, flower pots, tiles, cement blocks, along with beach balls and balloons, to create obstacle courses. We throw balls into the buckets, kick the ball to topple the water bottles, and jump over the cement blocks into hula-hoop circles. We set up the games outside my home so that the other children in the neighborhood can come play too. Even the adults join in, so we have all grown active and fit together as a community!
I am now 11, and studying at the Wat Sarikaram School, an integrated Primary School for children with and without intellectual disabilities in Trang, Thailand. My teacher says that she cannot tell that I have a heart defect because I’m active and smiling all the time, playing till I’m all sweaty and dancing at any chance I get. I’ve also been selected to be a cheerleader, as well as a drum major in the band.
My parents get their daily wages as laborers in rubber plantations and construction sites. They supplement the household income by selling fishballs at the weekend markets. These days, I’m able to accompany them and help out with chores at the stall. They don’t have to worry about me, not being able to keep still or not listening to instructions.
Today, I no longer need to take any medication. My heart, mind and spirit are strong. Nobody can stop me! In a few years, when I’m ready, I will join the Special Olympics sports program, and train to be an athlete for Thailand!