“My brother will be able to go to school now”
Ali, 4, lives in Jordan. He has cerebral palsy and, for the last few months, he has been visiting a Handicap International (HI) partner centre, where he benefits from physiotherapy and occupational therapy sessions.
Manal, Hamzeh and Ali, during a physiotherapy session. | © Elisa Fourt / HI
A young boy arrives at the physiotherapy centre in Zarqa, Jordan. He looks completely at home in his surroundings. “We’ve been coming here three times a week since summer,” explains Reham, Ali’s older sister, who is holding his hand. Ali has cerebral palsy. “The day he was born, the doctors told us he’d been starved of oxygen during birth and some of his motor functions had been affected. There and then I decided to do everything I could to help him. I’m usually the one who comes with him to his rehabilitation sessions,” adds Reham, looking affectionately at her brother.
Manal, the centre’s physiotherapist, starts a new session with Ali. “He has made a lot of progress since we first met him,” she says. “He initially found it really hard to control his movements. He couldn’t hold his head straight, keep his balance or grip things without difficulty. And he was really frightened. He cried a lot and it took a while for him to get used to us and the rehabilitation exercises. But we’ve managed to win his trust over time.”
The physiotherapist’s greatest victory has probably been to exceed the hopes of Ali’s family and her own goals. “When we first came here, all I wanted was for my brother to stand up by himself. But it never crossed my mind that the sessions would make it possible for him to go to school one day,” says Reham, clearly moved.
As she continues the exercises with the little boy, Manal says: “We’ve combined the physiotherapy and occupational therapy to make Ali’s day-to-day life easier, and he has come on leaps and bounds. After just a few sessions, we’ve helped him stand up straight and hold a pencil in his hand. And he can sit up for longer periods now. When we saw how well he was doing, we talked to our colleague, an inclusion specialist, who confirmed that Ali was perfectly able to go to school like any other child. We weren’t expecting that, but you always feel an enormous sense of satisfaction anyway when your patients exceed your initial goals.”
Ali will start nursery school next term. “As he grows up, I think the hardest thing for my brother will be realising he can’t necessarily do everything the other children do, or not as easily. When we talk about what he can do rather than what he can’t, and when he sees that he’s not so different after all, it makes him happy. Ali’s really intelligent and even though he finds it hard to move around, he understands everything we say to him. I know he’s going to be one of the top students in his class,” adds Reham proudly.
When the session comes to an end, Ali’s big sister adds: “I just really hope that he’ll go on improving. I want him to be as independent as possible in his everyday life. Ali deserves to grow up and thrive like any other child his age. What coming here has taught me is that we shouldn’t see his condition as a brake but more as an obstacle, which my brother has every chance of overcoming. And the more time goes by, the more he seems to realise that. That’s what is really important.”