One of the benefits of our new school is actually having a ‘day off’ for the boys. Last year, we had Fridays off from school but since there were no OT and Speech services offered at school, my wife and I would spend half of Friday at those services driving between two different elementary schools near us. This year, the boys’ new school has those services integrated with their class time so we finally got a full day off! Now, we just needed to figure out something to do in the free time.
We’ve got soccer until the weather gets cold and then we will pick that up again in the spring. We considered horseback lessons for the boys . . . something we both really want them to do. However, at $50 a lesson for both of them, we’d be spending $200 a month on horseback lessons. A little pricey for our budget. So, we look for alternatives and found that our local rec center has a boys gym class so we signed them up for that. . . . we figured it would be good reinforcement for their OT lessons and the boys were already comfortable with the Rec Center since it’s where we’d be swimming half of the summer. The class is weekly for 45 minutes and is about $30 a kid for a month . . . can’t really beat that.
I talked to the teachers prior to signing the boys up and had the boys observe at class – they were chomping at the bit to get involved (a great sign). The teachers told me that there would be a set routine of stretches and certain exercises the boys would perform weekly + some peer interaction. One of them commented that she knew a little on autism and that these routines would benefit the boys and help with their learning since it would be very repetitive and sequential. Seemed fair enough so we signed up.
The stretching routine is a nice warmup, gives the kids time to start listening to their instructor + some interaction with their neighbors. We then moved on to the ‘stations’ and some were difficult for them ~ somersaults, hanging by rings, tumbling, walking on a balance beam. These were all new to them. I wasn’t expecting the boys to using the equipment so fast but they loved it and it gave me ideas of things to work on at home.
The teachers picked up on the twins’ differences quickly and were smart to put them in two different groups so they wouldn’t get mixed up. I tried to help as much as I could . . . . I felt weird well first of all, I was the only dad and second, everyone else just sat on the side and watched their kid. I wasn’t sure if I should get on the mat and help but at the same time, I didn’t want all of the teachers’ attention monopolized on the boys so I tried to help at some stations.
As a dad, I had some trepidation when the teachers brought out the ribbons for the class. Having just watched the Olympic Gymnastics, I couldn’t see my boys running around with the ribbons. However, I think it turned out to be a great ‘cool down’ activity for the kids and really liked how the teachers used it. They had each boy stand on their ‘square’ again and would give directions like “make small circles with your right hand” . . . . “make your circle go up and down” . . . . . and gradually, those direction got tougher, “make big circles and now turn to your right. . . . . . ” That was great for the boys and the progressions were a definite plus to helping with their coordination and physical development.
I’ll admit, I get discouraged with some of the learning curves my boys have to go through. I asked one of the instructors if she felt the boys would be ok in the class and she was very nice ~ she said that most of the other boys had been in the class for a few weeks already and were comfortable with the routine and exercises. They all started somewhere and got better – my boys would be no different. I appreciated her honesty and support and feel very fortunate to have the boys in a great class. She also said I’m totally fine being on the mat helping the boys. I hope that after a few classes, the boys get it down and I’ll be hanging out on the sidelines with the other parents. 🙂
Tip of the Week: OK, so I kind of got away from this for a bit but I know it helps. I’ll have more ‘classroom’ type tips in two weeks when we start our volunteer schedule at the boys’ school. A few things I picked up from the gym class:
- Ribbons Twirling: OK – this was probably my biggest takeaway. They progressed from simple commands of ‘up and down’ to small and large circles, to turning in circles while making circles. It’ll be good for the boys’ coordination and direction following. While you don’t need a ‘ribbon’ for this, the procedure and developing on simple steps was great.
- Peer Imitation: The boys had to wait their turn at certain stations and watch other kids perform. At our departure mtg with the boys teachers last year, one mentioned that for high functioning kids, this will be where they can really grow – through peer modeling and interaction. She encouraged us to try out as many new activities as we could with the boys.
- Gymnastics: In general, I think this will be great for the boys. While it won’t work on some of the fine motor skills they will need, it will get them more familiar with their body, balance, and learning new activities. I’m glad we can attend!
Have a great week!