When Emma was a toddler, she taught herself how to swing by herself. She thrust her legs out in front of her and then leaned her body forward as she tucked her legs under her. It was an amazing and beautiful thing to witness. I remember the first time it happened, we were in the Washington Square playground in New York City. She pushed me away as she clambered up onto the swing. I stood just to the side and behind her ready to push, but she shook her head no. Then she reached down with her toes to the ground pushed off. A small group of caregivers and parents gathered around as she sailed up higher and higher, so incredible was it that a child of just eighteen months could swing so high unassisted.
That’s how it is with Emma when it comes to physical things. She has always insisted on doing things herself and while she can take direction, it is often very difficult for her to be taught by someone who relies on verbal explanation. Emma feels and learns from watching and doing. So when she put her arm around her brother, Nic the other morning at the skateboard park and said, “Nicky’s turn, then Emma’s turn,” we knew we were going to have to get creative if she was going to learn to skateboard.
We spoke to one of the instructors from Nic’s skateboard camp and arranged a lesson for Emma that afternoon. When we finally went to meet him, we realized we hadn’t brought sneakers for her to wear and so bought a new pair at the skateboard shop. They didn’t have any socks small enough for her, so she just wore the shoes without socks, despite my fleeting concern that she would get blisters. With borrowed skateboard in hand, we headed to the skateboard park, Emma leading the way.
The instructor got her to put on elbow, knee and wrist pads and then together they slid into the bowl to practice foot positioning. Emma wanted to skateboard though and didn’t want to practice standing on the board. She wanted to go.
In this way Emma is fearless.
And then the blister on her heel became too painful and she tried to take her shoes off. From there the lesson took a downward turn and after another ten minutes or so, Emma had had enough. I am convinced that if we just let Emma experiment on a skateboard for awhile, she’d eventually figure it out on her own. Just as she did so many years ago on the playground swing, and later with her scooter. But for now, we will let her dictate how this goes. If she shows interest in skateboarding again, we’ll try to borrow one for her to practice on.
For more on Emma’s journey through a childhood of autism, go to: www.EmmasHopeBook.com