a blog about raising a daughter with cerebral palsy and learning unexpected lessons along the way

Thursday, September 19, 2013

She Rocks PE

So, the PE issue... an update regarding my last post.

That phone call sparked my need to join Oia for a PE session last Friday. I emailed her classroom teacher and school principal to tell them exactly when I'd be in and why. I'm courteous like that. On Wednesday, two days before my scheduled visit, I received a second call from Oia's school PT. She called to inform me that she just witnessed Oia during PE earlier in the day and that Oia "did great". PT noted that Oia enjoyed herself, only fell once but wasn't hurt, that the class was cautious and mindful around her, and that she did all the exercises well and as best as she could. The best part of all? The assistant that day only provided Oia with verbal cues to keep her safe and on task. PT was pleased. And admittedly, a bit surprised. I told her I wasn't surprised in the least.

She then asked if I was still coming in on Friday and was curious to know if so, was I going to allow Oia to see me there. She feared I may be her distraction. I told her that given the tone of her previous phone call, ie. the spectator comment, I was planning to attend and act as Oia's assistant in an attempt to show them how to facilitate her participation. Then I continued to tell her that given the report she was currently calling with, that I wasn't so sure now what I would do come Friday's PE class (observe or assist). Frankly, I told her I'd decide once I got there.

And I did. I arrived just after Oia and her class were inside the gym and seated for PE to start. I watched from the hall through the gym door's window, deciding right then and there that I would not interfere unless necessary. Turns out, I stood outside the gym for the entire session. Oia ROCKED it. She ran. By herself. She attempted yoga-like exercises. By herself. She jumped back and forth, over the lines of the gym floor. By herself. She stood at the parachute, held on with two hands, and flapped it as directed. With minimal assistance. My heart was full and proud to spectate my mostly able-bodied 6 year old among a combined physical education class totally approximately 40+ Kindergarteners. Oia's laughter while running laps around that gym and flipping balls inside that parachute was heard loud and clear through those cinder block walls. She never knew I was there. All because she didn't need me. The kid has come a long way.

Following class, I spoke with her school PT. In a nutshell, I said, "Let her play. Use verbal cues for redirection and close supervision for safety always, and hands-on assistance only as needed. Never deny her the chance to participate. She's good."

And with that, I left the building wanting so badly to squeeze my girl, kiss her sweet neck, and tell her how amazing I think she is. Because she deserves to hear it as many times as I'm able to say it.

PE saga over.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Words to Oia, Our Player

An unknown number rang my cell late Tuesday morning. You were at school, probably working hard, and soaking in all that you could. I rushed to my phone and answered the call quickly just as I always do while you are away. I worry about you when you aren't with me. Tuesday's call was about you.

I hesitate to tell you who it was or why she was calling. I will tell you though. Just use what I am about to tell you as fuel for your sweet lil' fire. And then, play on.

The call was from your school PT. She was kind to contact me. She wanted to seek my advice on an issue that effects your safety and well-being while at school. The largest concern and reason for her call was in regards to your safety during PE, which you have twice a week. I know you love that. But anyways, you see, your love of running is a heart-attack to others watching you. But Oia, don't get me wrong. We are thankful you can run and your Daddy and I WANT you to. However, your springy and often clumsy style creates a tense situation for those in charge of you while inside a gym of combined classes. Your PT wanted to know how the classroom assistant should best protect you during these classes. She asked if I wanted you to participate by running and playing in the mix of the other kids or should you, during more involved and busy activities, be pulled to the side with the aide, to practice "other skills"? She talked for awhile and I politely listened. I was formulating my response the entire time. She continued to talk and finally mentioned it *might* be beneficial for you to learn the rules of some PE games, like baseball, or tag, as a spectator, stating "because that's what she'll always be anyways, right?"

I know, Oia. It numbed me, too. But don't worry, I told her she was wrong.

I told her I strongly disagreed. I told her you throw a ball straighter than I do and who knows what your involvement in sports as a teenager or adult might be. I told her that you always want to be a part of the game, even if that means you might fall down, and God forbid, even get hurt. Thankfully, you usually rebound from a fall well. I told her I have no clue what role you'll play in athletics one day, if you even choose to have a role at all. I also told her I was pretty sure that if sports do become your niche that it wouldn't be from the slide lines as a spectator. And I also told her that you, Oia, would decide what you wanted to do; spectate or play, and that we, teachers included, would honor that decision. And in addition, we would not only honor that decision but that we would modify and assist in such a way that allows you to more safely be a part of the game. You want to play? Fine. We make sure it happens. You'd rather watch? That's okay too. It shall always be your choice. Always. Never by the will of others.

I wish I had been quicker with my thoughts and words as to kindly remind your PT of the wonderful organization the Special Olympics is to other individuals like you. I'm willing to bet that none of those athletes spent their childhood practicing "other skills" from the sidelines. And if they did, they have every right to say "Look at me now!" In restrospect though, I stood a strong ground. For you. I'm so happy I did. I stuck up for you and I always will. That's one thing you'll never have to worry about.

Come Friday, I will attend PE with you. You and me, girl. I will be your "assistant" for the full session and together, we will show them how it's done. We will run, jump, hop, skip, dance, or whatever it is we need to do. We make a good team, you and I. Here's to hoping your PT enjoys being our spectator.