I have a good news story to report. Johnny was skating with his grade one class on Monday morning. He told us he was so excited to do it and I couldn’t wait to surprise him at the outdoor public park and watch him. You can read here about how he wasn’t allowed to go the week before here : http://wp.me/p1KVmo-1yA
I watched as Johnny stepped out onto the ice with his EA (Education Assistant) who was not skating but who was helping him hang on and skate along the boards. When the skating training bar was available for him to hang on to use he grabbed onto it and and pushed along the ice and he was shuffling off.
When Johnny was hanging on by the boards I suddenly poked my head up and it was so wonderful to see that big smile on his face that was already there but only got bigger when he saw that I was there.
He impressed me by taking the training bar and skating right across the ice rink and going out the one side. He seemed to be just trying to figure out how to move his feet and the skates just like a hockey player. He kept trying to find his own momentum and move faster. I actually found myself yelling please slow down please slow down. Then I realized he was trying to replicate what he sees on TV when he watches the hockey games when the players rush up the ice.
He was so enthusiastic and happy. Look at his face in the picture:
When he would fall this he would shake himself off and with a big smile place himself back up. Sometimes it was a little harder but he did it most of the time on his own and then will try again and move around. It seemed to only get harder for him to get up when one of his classmates who played hockey would come and try to show him because maybe it was just too much to listen and follow instructions and it was better for him to just try on his own. But to see friends come over and assist him was especially wonderful. I admit that a few times my heart was in my throat and I was wishing I had skates and had kept up my ice skating skills as he ventured way out in the middle of the ice and so far from where everyone else was. But I would take a deep breathe and tell myself I have to let him do this. I HAVE to presume competence and let him do this.
While other children were really getting getting discouraged, not Johnny. He just kept smiling and laughing and kept doing it and he just kept getting better and better it was only his second time on the ice ever! When you think about all the gross motor delays that happen when you have an autistic child this is freaking amazing. I still have to pinch myself as I type this to remind myself that this was only his second time on the ice EVER!
Johnny wants to ice skate and he may even want to play hockey. The next day in gym class his EA texted me pictures of Johnny playing ball hockey with his grade one class and after taking a pass and taking a shot at the net rushing the net. Who says an autistic child Play a team sport? His EA said he was absolutely loving it. The ball would come to him he would pass the ball to appear and then will come right back to him everyone joyfully racing across the gym floor. Good have a mentioned before how much Johnny loves cause-and-effect you can’t get more cause-and-effect then balls passing back-and-forth between sticks and then ending up in the goal.
How did we get to this point? I took a deep breath and wrote a letter. Before that Johnny’s Daddy made a point of when he heard to explain that inclusion is everything. It was hard writing that letter because I knew it would hurt feelings and could potentially damage the teacher parent relationship. Would I do it again? Yes. The grade one teacher wrote me a note on late Sunday afternoon explaining where some miscommunication has occurred and we worked together to make sure that Johnny could go skating.
The best part?
What I saw on the ice was a little boy learning to skate like all the other novice skaters out on the ice that morning. But I also saw a little boy showing me and his EA that even though he has a disability, he CAN do things on his own and doesn’t need help all the time. Bravo Johnny. First time ice skating on ice you can read here: http://wp.me/p1KVmo-1wQ