At his 15-month checkup, Ryan was behind in everything.
It started with speech therapy. Then occupational therapy. Then physical therapy. One of his therapists brought up the idea of autism. I was in denial.
I was totally ok with him being developmentally delayed. But then he was diagnosed with autism. It meant that it wasn’t a delay that he’d eventually catch up to. It was devastating and tough to accept.
Selfishly, I mourned the loss of what our life was going to be, but also the loss of the life I imagined for him when he was born. I cried myself to sleep the night he was diagnosed. I wouldn’t do it in front of him. That lasted a week and then I realized it wasn’t making anything better.
From that point on, we just focused on doing the best things we can do for him.
He’s a kid. He should be able to play baseball. I would just Google ‘baseball program for kids with special needs.’ We showed up for the first practice. He was 6 and the next oldest kid was 14. He had no idea what to do. I put the glove on the wrong hand. He couldn’t follow instruction. He had sensory issues. He couldn’t hit a ball off the tee. He wouldn’t wear a helmet. It made him hate doing it.
Ryan wasn’t playing with kids at school. He was gaining weight. I know that bullying is going to be a thing in his life because of his special needs. I don’t want him to also get bullied because of his weight.
And then we found IM ABLE’s IM FIT Inclusive Group Fitness Class.
Your donations make it possible for our son, and so many other kids, to be welcomed into this amazing community.
When we first started coming, it was sensory overload. He couldn’t deal with it. he walked around with his hands on his ears. Now, he’s running around participating.
He didn’t walk until late in life. His gross and fine motor skills were delayed. He’s 12 and can barely zipper. Now, at IM FIT, he is running around cones. There are other things too. Following instructions is a big thing. He wasn’t able to take instructions from other people. IM FIT has helped a lot. Just watching his peers take instruction is huge. What IM ABLE is doing, it reinforces that it’s not just in school, it’s not just at home.
It is a complete judgement free zone. A lot of those kids get left to the wayside. They get excluded from a bunch of stuff. There are so many kids with different abilities, and IM ABLE does a variety of activities that everyone can do. But IM ABLE pushes them too. The first time he went, he couldn’t do one squat. Now he’s doing 30 no problem. He comes home tired. Any time you can wear kids out, it’s good.
The older kids lead the class. Giving them responsibility, putting them in charge, “you can do this. So tonight, you are going to lead this activity.” It gives these kids a sense of purpose. It’s good for the participants to see other kids with challenges in a position of authority. It tells Ryan that he can do that too.
This is the first time in Ryan’s life that he has friends.
Don’t get me wrong. There are kids at school that are nice. But he talks about his friends on the way to IM ABLE and the entire drive on the way home.
I’m terrified that IM FIT is going to go away. Baseball, football, that’s never going away; they take our tax money and play. But this program, I tell everyone about it to make sure this doesn’t go away.
There’s always going to be another Ryan.
IM FIT is the only thing that’s year-round. That consistency is awesome for Ryan. He is a creature of habit and routine. Because the gym is all year, it’s something that he’s excited for. That routine of Tuesdays and Thursdays, I get to go to the gym with dad.
It’s definitely social hour for the parents. We go walk. It’s an escape for us, I think. As a mom, that is mental health adult time.
To get that time with other parents of kids with special needs, it’s networking. Every kid has special needs, and they’re in different school districts but this is a small circle. There’s not a lot of things out there for our kids so word of mouth on opportunities is huge. Some of those participants aren’t kids, they’re young adults. They’ve forged the way for their kid and it’s easier for us to learn from their experience and we can be that for parents of younger kids. Once those kids hit 18, things change drastically for these kids. I can ask questions and be better prepared.
IM ABLE is a community. Ryan belongs here. It’s more than just a gym. It’s more than just an activity. IM ABLE embraced Ryan. They embraced us all. Being part of this means the world to our family.
Please, give today to help provide opportunities for kids like Ryan.
Our generous donors and volunteers made this possible and we can’t thank them enough.