Tag Archives: gymnastics

Is There A Future for Emma in the Theatre?

Yesterday, as we were leaving Nic and Emma’s gymnastics class, Emma found a stray balloon.  No doubt left by one of the children who attended a birthday party there earlier, Emma looked at me with a sly grin, then grabbed the balloon and said, “Look!  It’s a birthday party balloon.  Take it home?”

Emma loves nothing more than birthday parties, balloons and singing Happy Birthday.  “Sure Em.  But remember to hold on to it, because if you let go, it’ll fly away,” I said.

Emma nodded her head gravely and said, “You have to hold it.  If you let go, the balloon goes up in the air.  Oh no!  Don’t go away balloon.  You have to hold it.  But listen, if you let go, there will be no more balloon!”

Emma’s way of coping with anxiety is to repeat a script of sorts.  These are things she’s heard from a variety of sources.  She pulls together threads and combines them to make a dialogue that she then repeats.  Many Autistics script.  Some people feel scripting is to be ignored and even discouraged, but I find Emma’s scripts are informative and useful.  It is the way she is attempting to communicate.  I don’t believe they are nonsense or meaningless.  I believe she uses them in situations when she cannot come up with words of her own.

Emma managed to get through the next four hours without losing the balloon.  This was no small accomplishment as those four hours were packed with activities, ranging from shopping for shorts and an awesome camouflage swim cap for Nic, bathing suits for Em, swim goggles for me, ear plugs for all of us, slices of pizza for everyone, before meeting Richard at the local Y to swim.  Emma attempted to jam the balloon inside our locker, (we ended up letting it float outside the locker, with the string inside the locker ensuring it wouldn’t float away.)  After swimming we went to a room where they’d set up an obstacle course and bouncy castle.  Meanwhile Emma’s balloon, which she’d secured inside my swim bag, stayed put.

Once outside as we headed home Emma suddenly gasped.  All of us watched with dread as her beloved balloon sailed out of reach.  In the past, losing her balloon would have induced a meltdown of epic proportions.  “Oh no, my balloon!” Emma said, her tone and inflection sounded vaguely familiar.  Emma stomped her foot and said again, “Oh no, my balloon!  Can you tell how Katy feels about losing her balloon?  Yes, Katy is mad she lost her balloon.  We can tell she’s mad because she’s raising her fist and stomping her foot.”

I looked at Emma in shock. Emma was repeating the dialogue from an app Marc Zimmerman, CEO of the app The Social Express Lite sent me more than six months ago.  At the time I showed it to Emma who liked it and watched the five different lessons a couple dozen times and so a few months later, I bought the long version of the Social Express, but other things took precedence, so it was soon forgotten.

“Emma lost her balloon,” Emma said looking at me as I awaited the meltdown I was sure would come.  Instead, Emma stood still, gazed up at the balloon floating farther and farther away and said, “Emma’s mad she lost her balloon.”  Emma stared at me for a moment and began to laugh.

I was amazed.  This was NOT the reaction I expected.  “Katy’s mad.  Emma’s mad,” Emma laughed.  She gave me her pretend “mad” face –  frowning, mouth set in a silent scream – and dissolved into peals of laughter.

I was reminded of a conversation I had with a friend of mine (who’s autistic), just two days ago.  She told me how going into a theatre program changed her life.  She told me how theatre taught her a range of things, including an increased desire to read because there was a reason to,  she learned how others thought and what motivated them.  She said, “In theater, everyone is honest, they have to be.  If they are not, the director says, No, be honest.”

“I am determined to find a theatre program for Emma,” I said to Richard.  “I think it is the thing that could change everything for her.”

“I’m with you,” Richard said.

When we got home Emma and I watched the Social Express together.  When the story with Katy losing her balloon came on, Emma pointed to the screen.  “Oh no! Katy lost her balloon too!”

And she began laughing.

Emma demonstrating her angry face

Isolation, Autism and a New Camera!

It’s interesting to note that autism, something defined by a lack of social skills, which in turn can lead to isolation in the children who are diagnosed with it, can have an isolating affect on the parents of those children for very different reasons.

How many of us have lost friends, seen some slip away after our child’s diagnosis while others we chose to avoid because they seemed unable to understand?  And what about family members?  When Emma was first diagnosed I felt such fear and worry and turned to a number of girlfriends I had at the time.  A couple of them were suddenly too busy to get together, while others just didn’t reach out.  Perhaps it was too much for them, too painful, who knows, but I felt incredibly sad when I realized those friendships were not able to withstand the diagnosis.

Now seven years later since we received Emma’s diagnosis I have new friends, many I’ve never met, others are from my life before, some even came back after having left for awhile.  What is wonderful though, is that those that are no longer in my life, I rarely miss and those that are in my life I am grateful for.

On an entirely separate note – Richard, my wonderful husband, bought me an early Christmas present, a new camera!

Emma at gymnastics on Sunday

Getting a little help from Brett

This morning waiting for the school bus

This is a hawk we saw in Union Square Park on Sunday!  (This has nothing to do with autism, I know, but isn’t he beautiful?)

For more on Emma’s journey through a childhood of autism, go to:  Emma’s Hope Book.com

Gymnastics – Autism

Because Emma has a wide variety of sensory issues and because she is so active, we are always trying to find things she can do that might give her some of the sensory input she so craves as well as help her focus while doing something she enjoys – moving.  Finding someone willing and able to teach her is often challenging.  It requires a special person who can keep her focused without using a great deal of language, who also has the patience and desire to continue to work with her for more than one of two times.

When we finally found Brett, a gymnastics instructor, we leapt at the chance to make this into a weekly affair.  So on Sundays Emma and Nic have an hour of gymnastics – or they did until Brett hurt his ankle.  But now Brett is back and off they went last Sunday to their first gymnastics class in almost four months.  Emma was very excited and kept saying, “Oh, Brett’s ankle is broken.”  “Brett hurt his ankle.”  “Ankle all better now.”

To which we would answer, “Yes, Brett hurt his ankle, but now it’s much better!”

When we arrived and Brett came out to get Nic and Emma, Emma bent down and gently patted his ankle.  “You hurt your ankle,” she said, sadly.

“Yeah, but it’s better.  Thanks Emma.”

“Ouch!  Have to get a bandaid,”  Emma said.  Because to Emma, anything that hurts requires a bandaid and will feel better if a bandaid is applied.

Emma and Nic stretching with Brett

Since it’s been awhile since Emma had gymnastics, I was curious to see what if anything was different.  Would she be able to stay more focused?  Would she attend more?  Would she be able to follow instruction better?

During their stretching period, Emma managed to keep up.

And while her form wasn’t great, she did do all the various stretches as best she could.

Later she was able to do straddle jumps on the trampoline and forward and back rolls on the mat.  She became a bit distracted when a birthday party took place in another part of the gym, but for the most part she attended and tried to listen.

Waiting for her turn on the trampoline.

All in all she showed progress, slow but steady progress.

For more on Emma’s journey through a childhood of autism, go to:  www.EmmasHopeBook.com