January 15, 2020 | In:
With the spring just around the corner, it’s time for parents to start signing up children for different sports and activities.
But for those with children on the spectrum or who have social disabilities, that decision can be a struggle.
That’s why there is a growing trend in gymnastics centers to provide classes and coaches for children who might not be ready for high-intensity contact sports.
“With gymnastics, it truly only impacts you and we don’t get upset with people if they don’t learn a skill right away,” said Cindy Walker co-owner of Williamsburg Gymnastics. “It’s an individual team sport so your success is based on no one else, your success is based on you.”
While Williamsburg Gymnastics doesn’t currently operate any classes specifically for students on the spectrum or with social disabilities, Walker said it’s something she hopes they’ll offer in the future.
The business already has experience with students who have certain disabilities because parents have found that gymnastics is a good way to ease them into athletics while learning other skills.
“We are very used to having kids that need a little extra love and attention and patience,” she said. “But we love them because they’re the ones who are fearless and try the harder skills, they want to participate in all of it.”
For some children, gymnastics can become a safe-haven to learn more about their own bodies.
At the We Rock the Spectrum Kids Gym Williamsburg location, there are specific equipment and classes designed to help students learn about all of their seven senses, said Shane Stahl, chief financial officer.
Stahl said while people typically focus on the five senses they learn in school, students on the spectrum have to learn how to strengthen their vestibular sense and proprioceptive sense.
The proprioceptive sense is a person’s sense of position and movement, such as when children are doing push-pull activities, and the vestibular sense is the sense of body balance and movement.
In the We Rock the Spectrum Gym, there is equipment such as zip lines and trampolines that are specially designed to work with those senses.
“It’s beneficial for all kids, but in particular with children on the spectrum,” he said. “By using that equipment it strengthens those senses.”
Gymnastics also helps children with social skills in a number of ways.
Walker said for children who have extra energy or difficulty focusing, it really hones in those skills while allowing them to expel some of the energy.
“It’s a great sport for children with extra energy or who have focus issues because there’s so much versatility and it’s a safe environment for them to focus and practice,” she said.
Stahl said children get to practice their social skills while not being overwhelmed because at We Rock the Spectrum, they get to chat and make friends while waiting in line. It also teaches children trust because they have to rely on their peers to know they’ll have their turn.
Both Walker and Stahl said those skills can translate easily to other sports. As children get older and more comfortable with their athleticism, they’ll be able to participate and enjoy other sports like soccer or baseball.
“What we want to do is build the kid as an individual,” Walker said. “Because when they’re more confident in themselves, they become more confident in their interactions with other people.”