My name is Gongpop Kumyang. I am 10, and I’m currently studying at the Phitsanulok Special School in Northern Thailand. I live with my maternal grandparents who are farmers, and my elder sister. My parents work in another province to support the family.
Growing up, I’ve always had a short attention span, had trouble concentrating and following instructions. I couldn’t sit still. I also couldn’t speak or express myself in a way that others could understand. My grandparents didn’t know how to take care of me or engage me meaningfully. They thought that the best way was to leave me to watch TV so that I wouldn’t run around and disturb everyone.
When I was younger, I would spend all day in front of the TV and snack. I love sweets. That’s why I was a chubby child and would fall sick often.
In 2017, my family was introduced to the Special Olympics Young Athletes program through a development center for special children. My sister attended the training with me. It was great fun and we played all sorts of games – crawling through hoops, jumping over obstacles, catching, running, and throwing.
After that first training, my sister came home and taught my grandparents to make simple toys from whatever we had at home. We could use a pole as a simple balance beam. Or our laundry line to hang balloons. Or our old basin as a platform for me to jump over. Since then, we have been using these everyday items as props and ‘toys’ to replicate the games at home. My sister makes sure I do the activities every day.
These days, I spend a lot less time in front of the TV. My concentration has improved and I am able to follow instructions better. I’ve also lost some weight, feel more energetic and hardly fall sick. I’ve been helping my grandparents with daily chores like sweeping and washing the dishes. In the evenings, I would go play with my neighbors instead of watching TV. I also communicate with others better now and can speak my thoughts.
At school, whenever there are physical activities, my teachers and coaches would ask me to demonstrate to the rest of the class. I feel so proud that I can lead my classmates in doing exercise drills.
Last year, I represented my school at the Special Olympics Thailand National Virtual Games in bocce and won my very first medal – a bronze. I was so happy! My coach and my family were so proud of me. I can’t wait to take part in more competitions and win more medals for my school. When I’m older, I’ll win medals for Thailand!
My grandparents used to worry a lot about me, but things are different now. We understand that although I have a disability, it does not define me. My future is bright. The sky’s not the limit, it’s only just the beginning!