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Tuesday, 6 March 2018

Trampolining and High Emotions

Today I took Sasha trampolining (you'd never have guessed from the picture). 
Sasha jumping high on trampoline

This is a special session during the day for home educated children, which we found out about at the start of this term. We've been to five or six sessions in total now; the instructor has been very understanding of Sasha's needs and has approached her with just the right amount of fun and instruction, mostly. The children take it in turns on two large trampolines, and as it's a small group it often tends to be 5 minutes bouncing followed by 5 minutes rest for each child. 

Today Sasha left a little before the end of the session, largely because she had completely worn herself out by shouting out numbers 1-10 very loudly as she bounced (I've no idea why!). I was happy to follow her lead about leaving though; usually when Sasha knows she's had enough, she'd had enough and there is no point at all in trying to persuade her to stay longer.  
A few weeks ago, the instructor had suggested to Sasha that if she completed some basic jumps, she would be able to get a trampolining badge. I honestly didn't mind if Sasha did this or not, it wasn't my decision, but because of the easy, no pressure way in which it was suggested, Sasha didn't mind either and she went on to achieve her first badge. It was lovely to see, as achieving in anything is not something which Sasha has had chance to do very often, mainly because the anxiety takes over and she struggles to follow through with anything challenging. 
Sasha showing her badge and certificate

The following week though, the coach suggested going for the next badge level. Buoyed by her previous success and the fun attitude of the coach, Sasha agreed to give it a go and they moved onto learning moves such as seat drops and front drops. After the seat drops, the instructor lifted a soft mat onto the trampoline and showed Sasha what to do. Sasha tried, but instinctively put her arms down before her body followed. Not a massive problem, she didn't hurt herself, but the instructor told her to try and get flatter. So Sasha tried, another 5 or 6 times, but each time was told it wasn't quite flat enough. 

All of a sudden, Sasha got extremely upset, got herself off the trampoline and was raging at me with tears in her eyes. She screamed that she never wanted to go trampolining again, ever. It happened so quickly I wasn't entirely sure myself what the problem was, but I realised that if I tried to ask or talk to Sasha about it, the anger would get worse. So when she insisted on going home, even though we'd only been there for 15 minutes, I knew that we had to leave. I made our apologies very briefly to the instructor, who was concerned as she hadn't intended to upset Sasha and didn't know what she'd done wrong. The rest of the day was a write off for us, with Sasha in a foul mood, still frustrated anyway about the lack of clear decision about when she could start at her new school (which she is still desperate to get to!). 

After a couple of days had passed, Sasha did manage to express a little better what the problem had been. She recounted that the instructor had said to her that she must stop her body from moving after falling flat onto the mattress... in Sasha's own words, 'it's just not possible to stop the body from moving after doing that, that's physics!'. That was what Sasha was fixed on, and couldn't get past, as it made no sense to her. I don't think the instructor did actually say those words to her, or maybe she said something similar in passing or said it to the child on the other trampoline at the time, but either way Sasha couldn't accept it and understand how to move on. 

I tried to explain this trampolining fail to the Headteacher at Sasha's new school this morning, as an example of her difficulty with communication, and how easy it is for someone (ie a teacher) to push her too far without realising it's happening. I appreciate that it's a tricky balance, especially given that the teacher role is one loaded with demands in order to try and lead children through learning. Sasha definitely needs to be able to build up close relationships with anyone before she can learn how to communicate better - we saw this very clearly in previous years at her mainstream school where the assistant who worked with her very closely was able to achieve much with Sasha. 

I've come away feeling that I probably didn't do a great job of getting that particular message across in a few sentences today, in part because I had to admit that Sasha did agree to go back to the trampolining session the following week (but only if she could free bounce as she chose and no more mention of badges). It probably sounded as if Sasha was having a 'tantrum' or acting like a spoilt child at the session where we had to leave mega early. I'm not blinkered to when she can be like that at times, but much of the time this kind of explosion is different. Sasha's extreme reactions are part of the challenge for her as much as for us, and can prevent her from accessing most typical clubs and fun activities. 

So today I was just relieved that we had made it back to the trampoline session (sad it will have to stop once she's back in school though!) and we are going to try something new this weekend - a drama club for children with and without disabilities. Not sure how Sasha will get on with what is likely to be quite a 'random' experience for the first few weeks at least, but I'm happy that not only is she prepared to give it a go, but it was her idea. She achieves much, our not-so-little one 😊 

Finishing up this long story with news of the new group which I've set up on Facebook, called PDA Info Group (Steph's Two Girls) - link is www.facebook.com/groups/388308224961836). The aim of this is to provide lots of information and resources relevant to PDA in one place (not so much my blog, but other websites and articles). It's open for anyone to join, there's no obligation to actively comment but you may find something interesting to read and share next time you have a spare 5 minutes!

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