When Rosie Evans arrived to her first gymnastics class of the year, she bounded through the door, squealing with excitement rivaled only by that feeling of being at the top of a roller coaster.
The 7-year-old sprang into the gym and onto the mat with her instructor and began stretches and tumbles, discovering that as a special needs child, she can still experience the joy of athletics at Rome Aerials Gymnastics Center.
In its second year, Discovery Gymnastics, a program designed for special needs children, seeks to provide a healthy athletic outlet for special needs children in a safe, yet stimulating environment. For Rosie, a non-verbal, Chinese and albino child, Discovery classes have become her highlight of the week, said her adopted-stepmother Amanda Evans.
“She gets so excited, she just runs right through the door,” Evans said.
Regarding the nature of Rosie’s needs, Evans said her instructor, Taylor Diehl, has been excellent.
“Her first couple of months in the class, I stayed in (the gym) with them and then Taylor got to know her better and Taylor is more than qualified to work with Rosie; she’s super patient,” Evans said.
“A lot of times, Rosie has different ideas about what she wants to do during that time, so Taylor was really good about bringing her back to focus and then finishing up with the things that Rosie wanted to do,” she added.
Diehl, a junior at Kennesaw State University earning her degree in Early Childhood Education, said working with Rosie is a joy. Diehl has been involved in gymnastics since she was a child, and has been an RFPRA Gymnastics Instructor since 2012.
“I really love kids,” Diehl said. “Rosie always seems so happy even though she can’t speak. She gets so happy, she runs in the gym and every time a new song comes on, she starts dancing.”
Discovery classes, Diehl explained, are structured, yet more relaxed than a traditional gymnastics class. Students learn skills that improve their balance, motor skills and coordination. Working near other classes helps the students develop social skills, as well.
“(Rosie) learned how to do some tumbling and she got on the rope swing,” Evans said of her stepdaughter. “Things like that are so good for Rosie because they’re pretty simple – not really fine-tuned – but really physical.”
Because of Rosie’s special needs, sports such as T-ball are not an option, but gymnastics fits the bill. Evans encourages other parents of special needs children to give Discovery Gymnastics a try.
“It’s hard being a parent of a special needs child; it’s definitely a calling,” Evans said. “And for any parent of a child with special needs, it’s great to be able to see your child doing something they enjoy and that they’re being successful with. It’s a great feeling.”
Registration for Discovery Gymnastics occurs each month and monthly fees are $35. Classes meet each Thursday during the fall from 4:15 p.m. to 5 p.m. at the Rome Aerials Gymnastics Center at 1. Shorter Ave. For more information, and to sign up, contact the Rome Aerials Gymnastics Center at 706.291.0766.