Teaching Your Child With A Disability To Ice Skate

I love my daughter. I enjoy skating. But I don’t love or enjoy skating WITH my daughter. In fact, I’d rather do anything else. However, she’s desperate to learn. I don’t understand her fascination, but I suspect she saw it on a television show and has taken a fancy to it. So we’re trying. And boy is it ever trying. People have said, “It’s not like skating is a vital lifeskill like swimming or something. So why bother?” I know. Skating isn’t an essential skill, but the heart wants what the heart wants… (so even if the heart’s mother can’t stand being cold, whaddayagonnado?)

When I saw that Erin Oak Kids was offering a Family Skate program at a rink near us, I signed us up. Us. As in I have to be on the ice with her the whole time. Though there are some wonderful therapists and enthusiastic volunteers on the ice to help, this isn’t lessons. This is a designated block of time, a freezing cold ice block of time if I may, for families with kids with disabilities to have “fun” learning to skate. So. Much. Fun. 

Do you hear the negativity here? I do. And I feel horrible about it. 

Three lessons in and my daughter is getting frustrated. Mind you, not frustrated enough to give up. The girl is determined to free herself of the metal frame, that along with her aching backed mama, is the only thing between her and a bruised bum. Or worse. 

I have to remind myself every five seconds that though she is strong, her core is weak. Hypotonia (decreased muscle tone/support) is part of her syndrome. Though greatly improved which age, Avery was a floppy baby. She couldn’t sit up or crawl. But a decade later, with physical therapy and determination, she’s no longer floppy. If you saw her six pack abs you’d be shocked.

Nevertheless, the simple movements and steady posture that are easy for you and I, require immense strength for her. I need to remember this as she’s arching her back, struggling to simply stand on the slippery ice. 

Even while she’s holding the metal frame helper and I’m supporting her from behind, her legs are sliding every which way. I’ll say, “Okay Spaghetti Legs, let’s focus. You can do this.” And she’ll say, “Mom. I’ve got this. I can skate by myself! Just let me go!!” 

And oh how I’d love to let go. But I can’t. Because the second I do, she falls, hard. And because a very high pain threshold is also part of what makes Avery unique, the risk of injury is high. 

So I hang on. And she protests. And I tell her she MUST use the stander. “Safety first!” as we say. At least until she can consistently find her balance. And I feel like the bad guy. 

When we drive home after a frigid and frustrating hour on the ice she asks, “Mum, are you mad at me? I’m sorry I didn’t listen. I don’t want to do skating anymore.” 

And I feel like a monster whose patience and sense of humour are buried deep under long johns and several layers of outerwear.

I turn down the radio so she can hear me clearly when say, “I’m not mad at you. I’m never mad at you. I’m sorry skating is tricky. But it’s hard for everyone. Even mummy. I’m an adult and I still fall down sometimes. It just takes lots and lots of practice. And we’ll keep trying, okay? We’ll get this.” 

And we will. 

At one point, we didn’t believe she would ever be able to sit up on her own. And then she did. We never imagined she would stand. And then she did. And when she walked across the room on her own, we cheered. We literally clapped and yelled and cried. 

So just because it’s hard right now and it seems impossible (like, seriously impossible you have no idea), it doesn’t mean that it won’t happen one day if we just keep trying.

(This is not to say that I won’t be sweating and swearing under my helmet. Because I will. Teaching a feisty sack of potatoes in pink skates to balance on two skinny blades of metal on a sheet of ice isn’t for the faint of heart). 


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