Thursday, March 4, 2010

We're Quitters

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.


  1. maybe he is upset because he wasnt with the other kids
    and it was one on one
    i dunno i was just thinking that cuz you said that once it started being one on one he started crying
    do you have any other friends kids that might be interested in doing this with him

  2. That would be an exciting development if he cared at all about the presence of other kids. Somehow I doubt that's what's going on here. But we can dream...

  3. I think it's actually pretty typical to like an activity but not necessarily the lessons. Kids love the pool but don't like swimming lessons. I've also been resisting enrolling L in Ballet for that reason, even though she asks for it. They like doing something, but not necessarily being taught in a rigid, structured way.

  4. It's very common for ASD children to shy away from physically challenging things. If you ice skate you might want to consider teaching him a little bit yourself till he feels confident enough to be with a teacher- who is a stranger to them. It's all about baby steps. They get there, just not at the same pace as typical developing children.

  5. I think its great to try new things even if they dont work always work out. And as you say maybe it will if you try again.

  6. also, to be fair, there are so very many things that my parents indulged/hoped in & signed me up for that i THOUGHT i liked before i started doing them - soccer, violin, ballet etc i also dissolved into tears at that age. i'm not denying that ryan has additional challenges in this setting - i'm just saying that his change of heart and very emotional reaction to the environment are not outside of the curve for kids his age


Keep it civil, people.