Here’s what the parents who drop off their kids at My Gym’s All Star Sports class and come back two hours later miss seeing (I know because I was there): their kids listen, they follow directions, and they stay focused the entire class.
It would be great if I were living in that world. I could grab a cup of coffee next door, read a book, run an errand, or do whatever it is that parents of neuro-typical children do after dropping off their kids at My Gym.
But while I sometimes wish I were living in that world, I am cognizant of the fact that my son has sensory issues other children do not have, and I am learning it is my responsibility to help my son with his sensory challenges.
This means “suiting up” and “showing up” as a parent with a greater awareness of the difficulties my son may encounter in social situations and the extra support he needs from his teachers and me to be successful.
- Knowing he may run off from sensory overload due to being in a new class (each new kid represents visual sensory input) and coming to class after three hours of structured time at pre-school.
- Recognizing his joints and muscles need sensory input via “heavy work” (i.e., wheelbarrow walk) before class to get his mind and body into an “organized” state (the calm mindset that is normal for neurotypical kids).
- Communicating rewards [read: computer time] he can earn for appropriate behavior such as not running off to keep his mind and body fighting against its natural impulse when on sensory overload.
As for myself, I remind myself to stay in a calm, emotionally detached state of mind and to not react in frustration while supporting my son with his tendency to run off and difficulty (at times) keeping his hands to himself.
And I take my position behind the front counter as the lone parent remaining: ready to intervene if my son’s sensory problems become more than his teachers should be expected to handle such as running off excessively.
His body is floppy during the warm-up routine (occupational therapists describe this as his body’s engine going “too fast” like Lighting McQueen), but he completes most of the stretches (with a slight variation to how his stretches look compared to other kids).
Then, with a hockey stick in his hand, an usual thing happens: his body goes from bouncy to serene and he is able to self-regulate his body. It must be the sensory input of holding the stick and pressing it against the ground.
(Coincidentally, the loud music is off
Now, maneuvering his body to control the stick to push the puck forward and move his stick, puck and body around an orange cone and back…with this, he’s having some difficulty (validating he has a sensory integration problem).
He also has trouble moving his body, stick and puck in and out of the orange cones and passing a plastic ball back-and-forth with a friend. He flicks the ball with his stick to his friend, but then runs off after hitting the ball.
I’m learning that hiis running off is likely an indication he’s reached his maximum capacity after the first hour of his class (and three hours of pre-school) and so I am patient in encouraging him to stay with his friend.
But when it comes time to combine all his new hockey skills together by running and hitting plastic balls into four goals with several other kids: he coordinates his body to move and hit the balls into a goal without bumping into the other kids.
Granted, he hits a few balls out of the goal when the objective is to hit them into the goal. This is an example of his auditory processing missing a few key details. However, I am impressed by how well he’s integrated all his hockey skills.
He still ran off several times in the last hour of class, but it was much better than last week. The key is: he’s making progress which should continue as he feels less over stimulated as the class becomes more familiar to him.
Hockey great Wayne Gretzky once said, “the highest compliment you can pay me is to say that I work hard every day, that I never dog it.”
And that was true of my son today: He worked hard, and with the exception of being distracted a few times from being on sensory overload, he never dogged it!
My Gym is celebrating its 30-year anniversary. It is evident from watching my son’s sports and other classes that My Gym has perfected the ability to create fun activities that help kids challenge their developing bodies.
But what makes Redondo Beach’s My Gym a hit with kids is its wonderful staff. They know how to get down on the floor and relate to kids. Here’s a short description of each staff member I found on My Gym’s website which I’ve found to be accurate from observing my son’s classes:
Curtis: His love for children shows
why he loves a job that allows him to be a kid all day. He’s not afraid to get down and be silly to make the children laugh
Jason: when he’s not teaching amazing classes and making children laugh, you’ll probably find Jason doing some manner of outdoor activity
Sacha: is known for that big smile she has on he face everyday. She believes that kids come first, even if she has to look silly and crazy to make a kid feel comfortable, laugh or smile she has no problem doing so.
Cari: My Gym began as just another job and ended up being one of the most enlightening experiences of her life. She has learned to come out of her shell and has grown into a person she
didn’t realize she could be.