Young Achiever: Laila making friends and art
A nine-year-old schoolgirl thought she could never take part in sports because of medical problems that caused near-blindness and affected her co-ordination.
Now Laila Martins, after a year of aerial yoga classes, has performed in her first dance show. She said: “This was my first time on stage. I felt wonderful after my first time.”
Laila, who is from Hamilton Parish and is a pupil at Francis Patton Primary School, performed a series of acrobatic feats in a hammock alongside other young performers at the Love is in the Air aerial arts show last Saturday.
Laila said that she had made several friends through yoga and felt more confident.
She also said: “When I first started yoga, I was scared that I was going to fall, but I’m not scared any more. I’m happy.”
The young dancer was cast in the Love is in the Air show, where she showcased the techniques she felt happiest with.
Laila said: “I got to do the hummingbird and arm balancing. The hummingbird is when you put your arms up high and hold the silks.”
The show, organised by Kinetix Natural Movement and Elevate Aerial Arts Bermuda, featured some of Bermuda’s most talented young dancers and gymnasts. But taking part in the performance once seemed near impossible for Laila, who just a year ago had trouble opening doors by herself.
Laila’s aunt, Nicole Martins, said that Laila suffered from septo-optic dysplasia, a rare birth defect that caused underdevelopment of the optic nerve and other parts of the brain.
The condition affected Laila’s learning, speech and movement and she also suffers optic nerve hypoplasia, which also damaged her vision.
Ms Martins said: “Because of her developmental delays she’s not able to play as quickly as a lot of children, so she felt more comfortable around adults.”
Laila was enrolled in aerial yoga classes at Kinetix last June on the advice of her physical therapist. Ms Martins said: “We thought this would be a perfect fit, it’s not too busy and it’s not too slow, it’s the right pace for her.
“She was very frightened at first, but we reassured her that if she does fall she’s okay and if she needed to lean on us that was fine too.”
Laila’s courage paid off after several weeks when her fine motor skills and upper body strength improved.
Ms Martins said: “She’s comfortable just doing yoga on her own. You can see the strength in her being able to do it and she just seems happy doing it.”
Ms Martins said that her niece’s progress over the months felt inspiring to her.
She added: “We’ve had times where we saw her struggle and it’s sad to see someone you care about going through something like that.
“But seeing her progress the way she has, it helps our family a lot. It makes us feel better and know that we’re doing something good, not just for us but for her.”