When Fahsai Saejang was born, her diagnosis—Down Syndrome and a hole in her heart—came as a shock. Her mother soon left the family, and Fahsai was raised with great care and caution by her father and stepmother. As a toddler, Fahsai got breathless easily; so her parents forbade her to take part in any physical activity. They feared she would exhaust herself—or worse. She also needed medication every day.
So Fahsai stayed home most of the time. When the neighborhood kids played, she watched quietly by the sidelines.
When she was 4, her parents learned about the Special Olympics Young Athletes program in southern Thailand. There, Fahsai was encouraged to play games, and make friends with other children. Her parents changed their mindset too, after seeing how much fun she had at the Young Athletes workshops. They realized that the games were actually beneficial for her health. The physical activities were making her stronger and she wasn’t as breathless as before. Soon, the doctors even said Fahsai could reduce the medication she was taking. She started coming out of her shell and found the confidence to make friends. She became more lively and talkative!
Fahsai is now 11, attending an integrated Primary School for children with and without intellectual disabilities in Trang, Thailand. Her teacher says Fahsai is active and smiling all the time, playing till she’s all sweaty and dancing any chance she gets. She’s also been selected to be a cheerleader, as well as a drum major in the band.
She’s also able to help her parents more. They both work on rubber plantations and construction sites, and supplement the household income by selling fishballs at the weekend markets. Now Fahsai is strong enough to accompany them and help out with chores at the stall.
Today, she also no longer needs to take any medication. In her words, “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!”