After trying gymnastics, swimming lessons and various other preschool “mainstream” activities, Isla (and I) found it too hard to keep up with kids her age. Our last attempt with gymnastics unfortunately only highlighted Isla’s struggles with her brain/body connections and motor skills, making something that was meant to be fun, incredibly frustrating for her. This would result in a tantrum or crying loudly that she wanted to go home. She would get the “what’s wrong with her” stares and I would try to explain to the concerned 5 year olds that Isla’s brain works differently and I would feel so uncomfortable that Isla was distracting the class that we would leave early. The other children would also get annoyed with her not knowing how to line up and follow instructions. This may have been more of a problem for me than her but either way didn’t seem to be helping either of us so we pulled out half way through term. I still have a
credit at the gymnastics club (note to self, see if they will run a special needs class!).
Anyway I set about finding activities where Isla would feel competent and accepted. We found a special needs dance group (Dance For Everyone) that Isla loves. Apart from the odd tantrum about what colour spot she is given to stand on once in a while (has to be white!), it has been plain sailing. She gets to dance, spin and move to the music to her heart’s content. Is also therapeutic for me as I get to spend a mostly uninterrupted hour with the mothers of the other children in the group.
That was pretty much it locally on offer at the time I was looking. When Isla was moved to her Satellite class I set about setting up a swimming group through the YMCA for the children in her class which most of them still attend now. We have been blessed with an amazing instructor Fallyn who controls our kids well. The main object is fun with a few swimming skills thrown in too. Again Isla has loved these sessions apart from when she doesn’t get the purple noodle (do you see a common theme here!). It has also helped her socialise with class members out of school.
Riding for the Disabled
Isla is also very fortunate to be able to attend Riding for the Disabled (http://www.rda.org.nz) on a Wednesday during school hours (in the summer months) which has started up again a few weeks ago. This is her second season. Isla is so calm on the horse I rarely see any hand biting. The amazing volunteers were so wonderful with her that although she had a fear of horses before she started she took to it straight away and looks forward to it every week now. It helps her in many ways including developing and improving physical, psychological and social skills.
This term we have just started Arts4us (through Dance Therapy). Isla is loving it. It is set up specifically for kids on the spectrum and encourages artistic exploration and social skills working with other children in the group. I was hesitant at first as Isla doesn’t enjoy colouring in all that much at home but she has really embraced it. I have been very impressed with how professionally this is run with an initial assessment by the lovely art therapist Julia and lots of feedback.
Special Olympics Soccer
Then just when we thought we were doing enough we got the opportunity to attend Special Olympics soccer skills at Lloyd Elsmore Park. We have had 2 sessions and is great to get Isla out in the fresh air and kick a ball around now the summer weather has started. She has quite good control of the ball when using her feet and again is so wonderful of those volunteers who help our kids have a bit of fun and learn new skills.
There is a lot around “inclusion” at the moment and ideally would be nice for Isla to be able to attend local activities with neurotypical kids but the reality is that it isn’t really enjoyable for her, so I am grateful that we have these sorts of classes around our area. We have been really busy this term and have been spoilt for choice. Isla loves all her activities and doesn’t want to give up any of them!