Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Ballet Schmallet

Tiersten enthusiastically insisted on joining ballet this fall and she greatly anticipates every Tuesday afternoon, where she gets to dress up in her pink leotard, pink tights, and pink ballet slippers, and head off to an hour of flitting about with other pink-clad ballerinas. This is totally "up her alley" and she is loving every minute of it. A friend of mine from my childhood runs our local dance school, and she does a terrific job with all of the kids!

Yesterday afternoon was "parent visitation day" at ballet. So, of course, I attended and watched Tiersten and the other girls perform the routines they are learning for the recital scheduled for next June. We even got a preview of the recital costumes. Tiersten will be in a patriotic-type number with a red-white-and-blue costume, she'll be a purple butterfly, and then finally, a diamond (very sparkly.....she's going to LOVE this costume!). I've attended several of this dance school's recitals, but I'm amazed at how far before the recital they begin pulling all this together and how much work is done "behind the scenes". I've never been a participant before--only a specatator of the final fabulous product.

I also found myself eternally grateful that, after two weeks of ballet class in October, Jennica announced that she hated ballet and wasn't going back. One child in this recital with the hair details and costume details is going to be overwhelming enough! But when she first wanted to quit, we tried to talk to her about it and figure out why. She just emphatically stated that she was not going, and we decided to respect her choice on this issue. Even now, when she goes with me to drop off and pick up Tiersten each week, she confirms each week that she's not going to have to stay there, right? At first, this was very odd to us. She had been SO excited to start ballet, right along with Tiersten. She is very physically well-coordinated with great fine and gross motor skills. She loves music. So why did she hate ballet?

Yesterday, after 8 sessions of occupational therapy for SPD, I was able to view ballet class as it must have appeared to Jennica. The entire class is presented auditorilly (spoken) and there are a million noises happening at once. The teacher is working over here with a few girls, there is music going, there are a few other groups of girls that are supposed to be stretching or working on an exercise in other areas of the room. To Jennica, who hears everything at the same volume and has difficulty determining which conversation is the one she is supposed to be hearing, she probably felt like she was in the middle of total chaos. There is no set schedule for her to be able to anticipate what comes next. The teacher changes the plan and moves children in and out of different groups depending on who needs to work on what, or who is going to stand next to whom for the next routine. There is a "method in the madness" from the teacher's standpoint, but once again, from Jennica's viewpoint, more chaos. And finally, the motor planning--Jen is wonderfully coordinated, communicative, and has great intelligence. But the ability to physically "mimic" someone else's motions to learn a routine? No way! Children with SPD typically struggle with learning motion songs like the "Hokey Pokey" or "Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes" for exactly this reason. It is often misunderstood by teachers and parents as a lack of coordination, or an unwillingness to participate. Thats not it! It is just that the sensory requirements to intake instructions visually and/or auditorilly and put them into action with physical movement requires a coordination of the senses that just doesn't come easily to these kids. But turn these kids loose on the playground, and they are often the ones that want/can spin the merry-go-round the fastest, jump the farthest, climb the highest, and yell the loudest. If you don't understand SPD, it very confusing to watch these kids. Why do they exhibit such great coordination in free play, but won't participate in a song with motions? Its all about how the brain takes information, and spits back out response.

So I greatly enjoyed attending ballet with Tiersten! Ballet is not MY thing, which I think makes me appreciate her love of it that much more. Nobody in my family growing up understood my love of horses and everything to do with horses. It was MY thing. So I appreciate that Tiersten has HER thing. It is special JUST TO HER! It's wonderful to watch the joy on her face!

And I came home and gave Jennica a hug. I understood, finally, why ballet was miserable for her. Perhaps, Occupational Therapy is helping me more than it is helping her. :)

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