As students returned to Waimea College for the third term there was a noticeable void – the absence of special education student Falco Jim Gale Atkinson who passed away unexpectedly on the last day of the second term.
“He was definitely a special child. Even though he was one who didn’t speak, the expression in his eyes and on his face spoke a thousand words,” says Ed Book, assistant head of department of Special Education.
Falco was born with severe cerebral palsy nearly 14 years ago, the condition robbing him of speech and only enabling limited movement.
Attending Waimea College for two years following his primary schooling at Motueka South School, Falco’s caregiver and teacher aide of seven years, Sharleen Calteaux-Brown, says Falco had “such a humorous side to him” and it was while at Waimea College that he came out of his shell.
“When we started at Waimea College I believe Falco’s whole attitude to life changed, he laughed and smiled almost every day while there.”
Embarking on numerous opportunities, Sharleen and Ed say it was the pool where Falco was happiest, evident by the “smiles and full-on laughter”.
Not limited to the pool, the team at Waimea College ensured Falco was involved with every aspect of school life and he took part in mainstream events such as x-country, athletics and attended a school camp at Teapot Valley.
“He was a speed demon, the faster you went the more smiles and laughter you got. It was just about being a part of everything,” says Ed.
Staff and students say Falco’s passing has left a “big hole” and during his time there he touched everyone that he came across.
“He was a real sweet little soul”, says Sharleen.