Born with Optic Nerve Hypoplasia, Freddie has demonstrated a determination and resilience synonymous with Manchester United to allow him to thrive, despite his condition.
Freddie’s condition means that he is blind, and experiences further complications that affect his development, including spending the first few years of his life being unable to walk. The youngster attends one of Manchester United Foundation’s six partner SEND [special educational needs and disabilities] schools, Kingfisher Special School in Oldham.
Kingfisher provides Freddie with support to manage his needs. However, Freddie was unable to go to school for a prolonged period during the pandemic, and as a result, his mum, Amy, noted a clear impact.
“His eyes do work, it’s just that his brain’s not receiving those signals,” Amy explained. “His blindness does affect a lot of his life; he doesn’t know the world at all.
“Everything else links in with it, because if he was just blind, it wouldn’t be as bad as it is.
“He’s still not been the same since Covid,” she added. “When he came back to school, he was really struggling. He didn’t want to touch anyone, he didn’t want to be around anyone, and they needed to find a way for him to release the tension that he had.”
With Freddie’s return to school came the intervention of Manchester United Foundation. The Foundation provided grants of £10,000 to all of its partner schools in 2020, following the onset of the pandemic, with schools given the discretion to spend those funds to best support their pupils.
Seeking a solution to aid Freddie’s reintegration to school life, Kingfisher used the funds provided by the Foundation to purchase a rocker. The rocker accompanies Freddie’s existing provision of rebound therapy on the trampoline, which allows him to experience enhanced movement and motion.
Those resources have been transformative for Freddie’s mood and approach to school life; as has the relationship he has developed with Foundation SEND officer, Jordan Maguire. Freddie has daily allocated time to spend with Jordan on the trampoline. He can now also use the rocker throughout other lessons in the school day, providing key, continued motion.
“They [Kingfisher] discovered that he liked rocking, bouncing, jumping,” Amy said. “That's when they found him the rocker and he absolutely loved it.
“He has his set time with Jordan to do the trampolining; I know when Freddie’s been with Jordan because he comes home happy.
“He’s just got so much more confidence and I know it is from learning to trust on the trampoline. Just to see how high he jumped, how he can communicate with others, it makes you burst with pride.”
Freddie associates his time on the trampoline with the voice of his Foundation SEND officer Jordan, and the time he has spent with Jordan over the past year has coincided with him defying the odds to learn to walk. As he is blind, Jordan notes that Freddie’s other senses are heightened, which has allowed the two of them to develop a unique bond.
“Freddie is a ball of joy, as soon as we say it’s trampolining, he’s literally buzzing,” Jordan enthused. “His character is amazing, every time I see him, he’s always smiling.
“The rebound therapy gives him such a good, positive energy, and a relief. He’ll go back to class after trampolining and be in a better mood, he’s full of joy after it. Freddie relates me to the trampoline; we have that sort of bond. I couldn’t be prouder to be working alongside Freddie and teaching him every day.
“When I first had Freddie on the trampoline, he couldn’t really engage much,” Jordan continued. “We focus on agility, balance and co-ordination, and to see that improve so much in the space of a year, it’s amazing.”
Freddie’s journey with the Foundation has also seen him and his family invited to Old Trafford to meet a group of Manchester United players, including Jadon Sancho, Fred and Tom Heaton.
“When we got invited to Old Trafford, it was a really nice day,” Freddie’s mum recalled. “For them [the players] to take the time out to speak to my son, it is pretty special.
“I don’t think he realised who he was actually stood next to! That’s something that he will keep for the rest of his life and he might not know how big it is, but we all do.
“There’s not many people like us, so to know there are organisations out there to help and support us, it is a big thing.”