Aloysius Gan (Singapore) – Boccia has shown me I can dream big too
In this blog, Aloysius writes about his experiences of having Cerebral Palsy growing up and shares how boccia has motivated him to set big dreams for the future.
Hi, I’m Aloysius Gan, from Singapore! I was born in Year 2006, currently 16 years old. I was a full term baby, but there was a delay during birth, resulting in a lack of oxygen when I was born. I was diagnosed as athetoid cerebral palsy (also known as dyskinesia cerebral palsy). Since young, I have done various type of tests and therapies at hospitals, my parents even brought me to do therapies in other countries like China & Canada.
The trauma basically affected my trunk control and speech. I can’t speak clearly and have to depend on assistive devices to help me convey my message. I will also have involuntary movements that will affect my daily activities.
At the age of 3, I attended Early Intervention Programme at Cerebral Palsy Alliance Singapore (CPAS). When I was 5, the school has connection with mainstream kindergarten and I was selected to attend K1 at mainstream kindergarten. My mum had to accompany me in the classroom as I couldn’t sit firmly in class. However, after a year in kindergarten, my mum decided to pull me out from the kindergarten, mainly because I was unable to speak clearly and write; it was too difficult for me to follow the class curriculum. After that my mum started to explore ways of communication for me and she found a special type of keyboard called “intellikey keyboard”. I started to learn to type what I wanted to tell others using the keyboard which was connected to a notebook. When I graduated from Early Intervention Programme and transferred to School Programme at the same centre, I was assigned to “Functional Programme”. After a year, the school thought that I was capable to handle “Academic Programme” so I started to learn Mainstream academic subjects at CPAS. I continued to use the intellikey keyboard to do my homework and even used it to type out my answers in the exam. With this, I passed my Primary School Leaving Exam “PSLE” at the age of 13 years old! Currently, I’m still attending school at CPAS, mainly learning IT Programme, using an iPad and MacBook to design poster. I’m no longer using intellikey keyboard for communication as it has to be connected to a notebook but now I’m using AAC apps in my phone instead.
After I transferred to School Programme, I could participate in Co-Curricular Activity “CCA” in school. Initially I was in music CCA, after a few months, I was given a chance to attend a trial in Boccia CCA and was accepted by this CCA. Since then, it opened up my journey in Boccia.
Boccia is a precision ball sport, to win, a player must score the most points by rolling a set of coloured balls (red or blue) as close as possible to the target white ball which is called the “Jack”. Players must remain in the player boxes while they throw their ball.
I was classified as a BC3 player, which is open to people with several different types of disability, including cerebral palsy. They are unable to use their hands to throw the balls due to their physical disability, so they need to use a ramp to help them to propel the ball. And they also need a ramp assistant to assist them in the game. During the game, the ramp assistant is facing the athlete, can’t turn to see the court, and just follow the instructions given by the athlete. Every Friday my mother will join me in my CCA to act as my ramp assistant. Just 3 months after I joined this CCA, there was a local competition, so my school sent all the students in that CCA to participate in this local competition. At that time, I didn’t even have my own ramp and balls, so when it was my turn for matches, I just borrowed from other teammates who were not having matches at that time. And of course, I lost in my 2nd pool match. My mum always teased me by saying that I cried so loud in the sports hall when I lost the match and she felt so embarrassed, and quickly pushed me out from the hall to comfort me. And she recalled one of my teacher said:” Very good, he cried, which means he has expectations, he will succeed in future!”
After this 1st competition, my dad got to know more about this sport, and eventually stepped up as my ramp assistant until now. However, daddy has work commitments, my mum still helps me most of the time on weekdays. We will usually record down our matches played during training and review together with my dad. My dad will train with me during weekends.
There’s a minimum age requirement of 15 years old for international competition. Over the years, I could only participate in local competitions. In 2015, ASEAN PARA GAMES was held in Singapore, and I was honoured to be appointed as one of the athletes to lit up the cauldron during the opening ceremony. However, I was only 9 years old back then, so I couldn’t participate in the games. I’ve been training hard over the years.
Finally, last year, in 2021, I was finally 15 years old, and was selected to compete in Asian Youth Para Games in Bahrain. I was even got appointed as the flag bearer at the opening ceremony! It was my 1st international game, My dad and I entered the competition without much expectation, thinking that it would only be a learning experience. Little did we expect, I won a gold medal in my individual game! I also won a silver medal together with my partner in the pair game!
In April this year, I participated in my 1st sanctioned game organised by BISFed. I won a 4th place in individual game and a bronze medal in pair game.
I never knew that a person with cerebral palsy could achieve anything big, but with the sport I’m participating currently in, it has changed my mindset and I’m motivated to have a dream to pursue too! My goal is to be able to qualify for Paralympic Games. I will continue to work hard and I believe I can achieve it one day!