Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Busy Bodies

Ellie's been in gymnastics for a couple of years now, and she's still enjoying it. But when it's time to load into the car and head off to class, she's starting to seem a little bit less excited to stop playing and go. I don't blame her for this. Actually, I'm unexcited about it, too. The program is great and has done good things for Ellie, don't get me wrong. She has learned to jump! And her balance has improved tremendously; she's impressive on the beam. But with school/Paul's work Monday - Friday, gymnastics every Saturday, church on Sunday, and Ada still taking an afternoon nap, we have little time to go out and do things as a family.

And I am a big go out and do things as a family person. Before gymnastics moved to Saturday morning we'd do at least one big activity every weekend: zoo, Grant's Farm, Science Center, Magic House, park, 6 Flags, arch, whatever. We still squeeze in stuff like that, but it would be nice to have a whole morning a week for it, when everyone's rested and fresh.

So we've been exploring other activity options for Ellie, and she seems particularly psyched about therapeutic horsemanship, which I think would be great for her. If you've never seen one of these sessions, you should check it out. Like most kids, Ellie loves riding horses. Her Nana arranged for her to have one session in Wyoming last year, and she loved it in a therapy setting, too. On horseback, Ellie will be working on gross and fine motor as well as cognitive and academic stuff all at once in a thoroughly enjoyable fashion.

This is the way I think about activities for Ellie: here's what she needs to work on, here's an activity that can help focus on those things, and here's a way we can make it fun. we do this with physical therapy, occupational therapy, speech, pre-academic work, social skills, you name it.

I was having a conversation with my girls' pediatrician this week, and the doc is one of those amazing people who causes my brain to go, "click!" and suddenly I'm seeing things in a different way. She started talking about how, when her daughter (who has Down syndrome) was 6, she started classes with an inclusive community theater group, and she LOVED it. She's gotten so much out of the experience.

See, the doctor's daughter knows that school is harder for her, that sports are harder for her, that she's not as coordinated as some of the other kids, etc. But she has a great memory and she loves drama. She can act. It's something she's good at, and this has really helped with her sense of self esteem and overall happiness.

Of course!

For months, I've been worried about my precious Ellie. She's still a beacon, with this light within her that makes strangers smile and fills a room - an entire sanctuary - with a glow. But I feel like she's got a dimmer switch, now. I feel like she's so much more hesitant. She'd rather play alone in her room, by herself, than reach outside of her comfort zone. She knows that she's different from other kids, both in what they can do and in how they interact with each other. And rather than push for acceptance, she sometimes chooses an easier route, wanting to play with her own toys at home, wanting to watch the videos she quickly and easily memorizes, wanting to do the things she can do without being redirected or corrected or rejected.

I think we'll still sign Ellie up for therapeutic horsemanship, and I think she'll love it. But we'll look into theater, too. Because it's good to reinforce her special gifts and talents as well as her challenges. Just like we would do with any other child.


datri said...

How awesome that you have a doctor who has a child with DS!

Kayla does hippotherapy and loves it. Horses are really wonderful.

Byron said...

Great to hear about Ellie. Hope she will be able to do a great many things in life!

Sarahlynn said...

Datri, cool! I'm looking forward to it. Our pediatrician was actually recommended to me while I was pregnant with Ellie by another mom who has a child with DS, and she (the doctor) was so helpful to me during my pregnancy and afterwards. Her practice sees A LOT of kids with DS and are a fabulous resource. We are so lucky!

Byron, I think that she will! She's an amazing kid. :)

Jennifer said...

Lovely thoughts to consider when my Ellie gets to be older. We have a hippotherapy program nearby. There was a great interview interview with Timothy Shriver (Chair of the Special Olympics) in Parade Magazine on 1/25/09, (link at bottom of posting) that talked about unified teams. One comment from a coach was how both sets of kids benefited and how the kids with special needs improved more because they were more challenged to keep up with "normal" peers.

This is my first time commenting, so I should also say that I've enjoyed your posts and glimpses into a possible future.

Sarahlynn said...

Welcome, Jennifer! Thanks so much for stopping by, and for the link, too. It's very timely, given that I just read a bunch of awful responses to an article in the local paper about inclusive classrooms.