Elfi Schlegel with Avery the gymnast

Schlegel’s Gymnastics Centre gave my special needs daughter exactly what she needed

My daughter’s genetic make-up is unusual in many ways and I suspect her DNA also includes a unique elastic gene. The girl lives to flip, jump, roll, climb — basically anything that results in her body leaving the ground for any length of time.

Avery was first introduced to gymnastics by her cousin — it was love at first back bend and we knew we had to sign our little monkey up for a local program.

By “happy-stance” I met Canadian Olympic Gymnast Jessica Tudos on Twitter and she recommended a gym for us. She said it would be a perfect fit. She was right. Though Avery has developmental and physical challenges, Schlegel’s Gymnastics Centre is fully inclusive. Avery is just another active kid in a leotard climbing a rope. Can I just say how thrilled this makes me??

Guest post by Lisa Thornbury

Lisa is a former elementary school teacher turned stay-at-home mom and freelance writer. She is the author of Forever in Mom Genes, a blog about raising a child with special needs, and is a contributor to Yummy Mummy Club.

Several years ago Avery attended a play gym and because of her special needs she was placed in a program with kids half her age. There was poor Avery out on the mat with toddlers. This didn’t do anything to develop her physical or social skills. We quickly pulled her out.

Schlegel’s focuses on each child’s individual strengths and needs. It’s non-competitive and based on the three Fs:

  • fun
  • fitness
  • fundamentals

In 1998, sisters Elfi and Andrea opened Schlegel’s Gymnastics Centre in Oakville, Ontario. Elfi, pictured above with Avery, was a member of the Canadian National Team from 1976 to 1985, won two gold medals at the 1978 Commonwealth Games and won Canada’s only World Cup gymnastics medal in 1980. Andrea specialized in Rhythmic Gymnastics, representing Canada on the international stage.

Avery has a 90-minute class once a week. It’s the highlight of her week; of her young life really. Hearing her shout, “I did it!” across the gym when she’s mastered a new skill is the best.

I grew up doing cartwheels on the lawn and handstands against the wall. I miss my bendy days and wish I’d kept it up. Elfi mentioned a night class for adults interested in getting back to back bends. I must say, I’m intrigued. Though in my aged and atrophied state I fear the cartwheel. A few years ago when I was still teaching, I took a dare from a seven year old student. She challenged me to do a cartwheel. Not one to turn down a challenge, I put down my yogurt and yard duty whistle and did a round off. I wonder if the kids could actually hear the ripping sound that emanated from my inner thighs? Maybe I’ll just stick to the log roll because I’m clearly missing the “elastic gene.”

2 responses to “Schlegel’s Gymnastics Centre gave my special needs daughter exactly what she needed

  1. I must add that Lisa, I could not agree more about integrating social needs children into regular program is best. Sometimes the challenge is having the resources to do it, but at my club, we have either placed special needs children in a smaller sized class, or added extra CITS that can provide addition resources for classes with special needs children participating.

  2. Don’t give up so soon Elfi. I started coaching at age 16. In fact at that time I worked with your father, Peter, at the former Crock & Block Restaurant. I also new some of the fellow gymnast you trained with who lived in my neighbourhood. I very much enjoyed watching you develop into a very successful gymnast over the years. Since ten I have been an advocate for adult participation in gymnastics for both those who are new to the sport, or who were former gymnasts. At age 59 I had the misfortune of a terrible workplace accident, and as a result, a new right knee, and continuing treatment for chronic pain in my neck and shoulder. I had to stop coaching again for a couple of years, but returned to the gym about a year ago. How do I do this? Taking it slowly with gradual stretching, more rest days between strength training sessions, massage, physiotherapy, and acupuncture. I also consistently do as many of the warm-ups as I can with the gymnasts when I am coaching, being careful not to do too many reps. I find that the odd time when I am asked by a gymnast ” can you still do this or that, because I work on my flexibility and strength on my own training time, and do warm-ups with gymnasts when coaching, when I try, I surprise even myself with what I can still do with hurting myself. What a rush when you nail it, an hey it keeps me more fit in general that I would otherwise be despite my disabilities. I agree though there are some things I just say I can’t do , so I look for someone else who can demonstrate how it’s done.

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