Saturdays are stupidly busy in our house.  Alongside all the usual weekend chores, the programme for the day includes three gymnastics classes and orchestra for EB.  Gymnastics is a bit of a “thing” in my family.  My mum did it, I did it and, since they were very small, so have F and EB. It was never the grand plan but somehow they found themselves directed towards a branch of the sport called Acrobatic Gymnastics, in which gymnasts perform in pairs or groups.  For a busy mother (is there any other kind?), this has one particular advantage over most other sports: boys and girls always train together.

F and EB used to train in an elite facility in the city.  It was a very serious business, and the training hours were long and always increasing.  Training was held behind closed doors. Parents saw their children perform only when they they were entered for competitions.  They were only entered for competitions if they were expected to win.  F, in particular, stopped finding it fun, stopped working hard and stopped progressing. It might have been a very serious club but their coach was nevertheless a very reasonable man.  He suggested that F and EB should try a different club.  Not only that, he facilitated the transfer.

The move to the new club has been a great success (one of the keys to this, is that the new club also offers members the chance to compete in Tumbling; as my friend C commented, Tumbling is just another word for showing off).  R and I loved the new club straight away because here we could see the children train: both Tumbling and Acrobatics are spectacular sports and great to watch. However, R quickly decided that spectating wasn’t enough.  She wanted to join in too.  She made this very clear by tapping the registration sheet very pointedly every time we arrived and by screaming very angrily when she wasn’t allowed to join in.

If you have read this blog before, or know something about Rett, you will appreciate that gymnastics isn’t the most obvious sport for R. That said, the alternatives typically offered to children with significant disability – like Boccia – aren’t really suitable either (besides which, R thinks that they are beyond tedious). A chance conversation with another parent at school alerted me to the fact that there was a recreational class for young people with disabilities back at the old gym where F and EB used to train.   With R anxiously looking over my shoulder, I composed an email to the Head Coach, including frank details of R’s disabilities.  The same evening, the coach emailed back offering R a place in the class.

So it is that for the last year, our final gymnastics class on a Saturday, and undoubtedly the highlight of our week is R’s class.  There cannot be a more enjoyable class anywhere.  F and EB are allowed to take part and they love it too. R is the most physically disabled child in the class … and it really doesn’t matter. We have discovered that R is a natural on the beam (yes, really) and she loves the trampoline.  Socially it’s brilliant, for R but also for me.  And not long ago, one of F and EB’s coaches told me about Disability Acrobatics, in which one (or more) of the partners is able-bodied and supports the partner with a disability.  It rather seems like that there may have been a grand plan after all.


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