It all started out so promising. Ryan was really excited about ice skating at first. He loved staggering around the rink with me at open skate. When we signed him up for lessons, he seemed open to the idea of skating with other kids and an assortment of high school-aged teachers who had no idea what to make of him. Week after week I watched the other kids learn to glide while Ryan struggled to walk back and forth across the ice, but figured as long as he was having fun, this would be a good experience for him.
Then he stopped having fun.
One week he started bawling halfway through the session. The instructor escorted him off the ice. I tried to calm him down enough to find out what the problem was. He asked for juice. I gave him some juice and sent him back out on the ice.
The next lesson or two he seemed perfectly content.
The teachers divided up the kids by ability. Ryan's lesson devolved into a one-on-one with one instructor or another, as the other children broke off into groups too large for a single instructor, tripping over each other as they practiced two-foot glides and swizzles.
Then, the crying and screaming started about 10 minutes into the lesson. When the instructor ushered him out of the rink, Ryan wailed, "Go home take a break!" I returned his rental skates and brought him home.
More lessons, more crying. I could see him mouthing "Go home" through the plexiglass. This past Tuesday, the crying started before he even stepped onto the ice.
On Wednesday I called the rink manager and got him to agree to credit the remainder of the semester toward a future session. "I really appreciate all the one-on-one attention, but he's just not ready."
Maybe in a few months he will be.
I'm embarrassed by my own reaction to this situation. I think I just wanted him to be able to succeed in a "normal kid" activity. I had this fantasy of standing around with the other moms, making small talk while our children skated for 30 minutes. Ryan would blend in with the other kids (except he'd be the one without the goddamn overprotective bike helmet - there's no freaking need for a bike helmet in skating lessons, people) and I'd make some mommy-friends. Ryan would stand in line with the other children before class, and I wouldn't have to stand with him or demonstrate how to stand in line or what to do when the line started moving. He would wear the I-belong-in-this-class button on the front of his coat and without crying about it. I wouldn't have to run to one side of the rink then the other so my child would focus on skating toward me instead of staring at the rafters. We would pass for neurotypical for half an hour and top off the experience with some hot cocoa.
I've been trying to remind myself to be proud of Ryan for being able to tell me he wanted to go home. It would have been more convenient if he were able to tell me he didn't want to skate before we went to the rink and laced up his skates, but I should be proud that he eventually found the words.
Maybe in a few months we can try that again.