It all started with Gymboree. If you've never heard of Gymboree, picture a room filled with brightly colored play structures (toddler sized), brightly colored balls, brightly colored walls, and brightly colored parachutes. In this room, you will see parents and their children, primarily babies and toddlers. In my case, it all began with S when she was 7 months old. At that age, the reality was that she was never going to be doing back flips before she could walk, but there was one important component that was a potent elixir...other grown ups! This is a huge draw for most parents. When the kid's activities are also social time for the grown ups, it's a win-win!
From Gymboree came gymnastics, play & music classes, dance classes, day camps, swimming lessons, Girl Scouts, and piano lessons. We aren't alone! In households throughout our community, parents are busy encouraging exploration, skill development, and packing schedules of activities that require spreadsheets and color coded calendars to get through the day.
I've pretty much given S & K the chance to explore. I may have made the initial choices to see what they like or where their natural aptitudes lie. For S, she really enjoys dance and is beginning to find her niche in jazz dance, although she likes ballet, too. She likes Girl Scouts and is often up for trying new things. She is a talented artist and if I offer art classes, she will be happy to go. As always, things with K are slightly more complicated.
K has tried a variety of activities. We used to say that K would be happiest playing softball, while singing or playing an instrument, wearing a tutu. She wants to do it all. We want her to do it all, but I have learned that some things just aren't meant for her, no matter how much she wants it.
With her auditory processing disorder, she doesn't always hear what is around her as fast as it is delivered. She simply won't hear instructions, especially if they are given too quickly, and particularly when there are competing sounds jumbling up the process. This makes team sports very stressful, so we took softball and soccer off the list of activities. Golf? Possibly. Tennis? Maybe.
She seems to have an aptitude for music. From a young age, she could sing on key and keep a beat. So, when she wanted to dance like her big sister, it seemed like it would be a great fit. It was...until she wanted to try tap dancing! Tap dancing? My child who can't stand loud noise, plugs her ears with her fingers, and will avoid shopping in stores with loud music? She loved tapping, but when her teacher started telling her she had to practice at home, I knew something was up. Yeah, tapping really wasn't up her alley. Kind of like swimming, she was having a tough time getting her feet to do something different from her arms. Frankly, she looked like a marionette with someone else pulling the strings, arms and legs going different directions, floppy and loose...and I say that with all the love in the world. Thankfully, piano lessons have been wonderful. It's individual, only as loud as she plays, and suits her innate musical talents.
Girl Scouts has been an easy and constant activity for both girls. That is changing now, too. K is just not as mature as her peers and it is difficult for her to stay engaged in our activities when things are often just above her head, a little bit out of reach.
So, what to do? What to do? I asked some other parents with special needs kids what kinds of things their kids participate in. You know what they said? Most of them said karate or martial arts. Okkaayy. Do they play music in those classes? Can she wear a tutu? No? Well, we might give it a try anyway. I have a hard time picturing her with the discipline required in those classes. I have a hard time picturing her karate chopping her way through the world. On the other hand, we don't want her to be limited, so I can't cross it off the list until she's tried it.
Summer is coming soon and that is a great time to try new things, so we shall see what that brings. Maybe I can find her a pink karate outfit...