When soccer season ended last year, we weren’t sure what to do. We want Maggie to be involved in all of the things we were involved in as kids – sports (AJ & Jenny), dance (Jenny), cheerleading (AJ), whatever she wants. Obviously, every typical activity comes with its own layer of difficulties for Maggie. For instance, the same group of people who organize the soccer team do basketball over the winter. Since basketball requires functional hand use in ways that would be extremely frustrating for Maggie, we asked her what she wanted to do.. It’s easy to fall back on doing what’s easy. It’s easy to just decide for her. But she’s got opinions. Oh, boy does she have opinions. Typical kids will let you know those opinions. Maggie wants to let us know but we have to give her the opportunity to tell us.
For clarity’s sake, when we say we asked her what she wanted to do, we have to present her with options. Unfortunately, she doesn’t have access to every word in the English language, so she only gets to choose from the options we can think of that might be possible.
She chose gymnastics.
It’s a completely age appropriate activity and we were both excited to get her involved. I thought it was a perfect way for us to sneak in some physical therapy and Jenny was excited to buy leotards. (I did not expect her to buy one for me as well).
There are a couple of gymnastics gyms close enough to us but finding someone who was willing to adapt a program for Maggie was a little more complicated than we had thought it would be. None of the gyms themselves have any way of teaching a kid with Maggie’s complex issues. I thought maybe, I’d have to fly out Maggie’s uncle Steve, a master of the singlet in his day. Ultimately, we found Leapz N Boundz (http://leapsnboundz.com), an organization that “provides adaptive sports, recreation and social programming for individuals with special needs.”
Maggie was assigned a coach, Coach Jason, who assisted her through a weekly private gymnastics class. He would hold her hand to help her across a trampoline, offer support as she traipsed across a balance beam, help roll her body to practice her somersaults and support her weight so she could experience the rings or the bars.
We, of course, had to help as well, Maggie is often times a two person job, and that’s even more true when the other person doesn’t fully speak Maggie’s language. But she got to be a gymnast.
She pined over the typical girls in their typical classes, and would get emotional when we helped her too much, or not enough. But she got to do it. The thing that was most incredible to see is her pride when she successfully completed a somersault, her joy when she held onto the rings herself (even if for only a few moments).. So, Maggie has Rett Syndrome. But that doesn’t define her. She’s also a soccer player, a gymnast, a student. Gymnastics season is over now. But she’ll be back…if she wants to be.