Actually, I don't know if he'll learn to do a herky. But, either way, PJ has joined the South Jersey Storm Twisters, a cheer leading team for children with special needs!
My very funny, fun editor at South Jersey Mom, Mary Beth, has a gorgeous daughter who has been with the Storm Twisters for years. I came across a post on Facebook about them and asked about age limits. The coach, Shannon, told me that they start at four, so with PJ being a little shy of that, I thanked her and said "maybe next year". A few minutes later, I got an email, inviting me to come to the open house they would be holding. We could check things out and if it seemed like it would be a good fit for PJ, she would take him on.
God love Shannon.
We took PJ to the open house, a practice for anyone who was interested in possibly joining the team. PJ had a difficult time settling down, preferring instead to race around the room. I tried to reign him in, but Shannon let him go, figuring he'd settle down when he was ready. After a bit, he grew tired of roaming and joined the group.
There are a few other boys, but the majority of the cheerers were girls and they were all loving the cute blond kiddo who joined their ranks. Sweet older students with varying challenges came over to give PJ hugs and kisses, hold his hand, and offer him guidance. It was, pretty much, the cutest thing ever. The kids moved from station to station, learning different cheer skills. When PJ got to the tumbling area, he promptly fell in love, and his mama and dad decided to give this a go.
The first "official" Storm Twister practice was this past Friday. This time, PJ had already faced a full day of school before practice, so he was a little tired and unfocused. Still, his coaches (from whom he received one-on-one support, as many of the other members do as they are provided with support via volunteers) helped to keep PJ focused on the activity, giving him breaks when he needed them. And by breaks, I mean time to roll around on the floor. Whatever. They handled him beautifully, and for that I am extremely thankful. One of his coaches is a special ed teacher and certified in ABA therapy!
So, the question comes up- Why cheerleading?
There were a number of factors that brought us here. One was the little boy who I saw on the Facebook post for the Storm Twisters, cheering with a huge smile on his face and his hands in the air. Yes, cheerleading is mainly dominated by women, but I see plenty of dudes throwing cute, skinny chicks into the air on college football fields. I wasn't personally worried about this being a "girl" activity, but even if I was, it's not. It's for everyone.
Cherleading may not, strictly, be a "girl" activity, but what it is is social, vocal, and athletic. Those are the three main factors that led us to trying this out. At the open house, three little girls at three different times asked PJ his name, and all three times, unprompted, he smiled and said "My name is PJ!". PJ has the chance to make friends in a new type of setting, and with such a welcoming group, it was hard to consider saying no.
Cheer is also, of course, vocal. As PJ works on linking his ever-growing vocabulary together to form sentences, we welcome any chance possible to help him develop this skill. Cheer provides a simple, repetitive outlet for trying out new words and vocalizations. Not only will PJ learn his cheers, but he has a group of teammates to follow the example of (another reason I am kind of thankful that there are so many girls, truth be told. You know chicks love to talk.).
Of course, cheer is a sport, and I am happy for the opportunity for PJ to continue to develop his fine and gross motor skills. Jumping, clapping, balancing, and tumbling will be a great outlet, not only for his
ridiculous boundless energy, but to help fine-tune some of the places he is lacking in motor skills.
Now, I'll confess. I really just wanted to see PJ in an outfit like this:
There. Now you know.