Saturday, 21 January 2012

CJs SkatePark....Epic.

Friday was my second visit to Etobicoke's finest, CJ's SkatePark. If you didn't catch my first post, written about their Saturday Spec. Ed Skate Program, you can see it Here to get caught up.

Now that we're all caught up...

CJ's is a not for profit project created by a couple of die-hard skateboarders, who--I have been told, if you know anything about "old school skateboarding" are some well known names. The space used to be one small room, but since a recent move and renovation, calls 60 Horner Avenue home (a huge industrial space). The space is nothing short of expansive and immaculate. They really thought of everything when they made this space; meeting the needs of advanced skateboarders, and special needs kids small feat for a not for profit. Did I mention they have a "surgically clean air machine"?

So the guy making it all happen is Jay, and working with him is a team of incredibly and dare I say...also "die-hard" and maybe even "old school" skateboarders; in the mix are some instructors, who are lucky enough to spend full-time hours employed by this unbelievable place.

Not only is every single person there incredibly friendly and helpful, but they made my students feel like...the "regular kids" they are. Unlike any other field trip I have been on in the history of my teaching career, there was no gawking, no smirks, no inadvertent stares; we were embraced with open arms and encouraged to try everything at our own space. I made one request, "do you think we could lose the music, it's a bit echo-y in here and might be distracting and over stimulating"; before I even finished the explanation, the music was off and calm was restored.

Ok you get it, they are AWESOME...but what did we do?

When we arrived they greeted each kids, and provided us with helmets, knee-pads, wrist-pads and elbow pads. We got suited-up in their lounge area (an incredible space with couches, a big screen tv, and tons of colouring supplies..which we love..); we met our instructors and headed into the largest skate-park I have ever seen.

We transitioned well into the space, and started by sliding down the ramps on our knees; this helped our kids learn to brace for a fall if they happen to lose their balance on the board; it also helped prepare the kids for the feeling of motion. Once the little ramp was mastered, we moved to a bigger one, and a bigger one, and finally climbed a long staircase up to the 20 foot ramp. When we got to the top, our instructors set up foam blocks for the kids to crash-into as they slide down the huge slide. Once we got comfortable with the feeling of motion, they gave us skateboards!

There were no words for how much fun the kids had. We took a lunch break and then headed to play in the massive foam block pit. The foam block pit is exactly what it sounds like; a huge pool filled with foam blocks for the kids to run, crash and crawl through. If you think our small ball tent at school is a hit, times that by a million and that was the enjoyment that came from this foam pit. Just to clarify here....

This is our Fitness and Coordination teacher, and skateboarder, Andy falling into the foam pit after skateboarding down a 20 foot ramp and flipping into the blocks...Best...Gym Teacher....Ever...
After the foam pit, which we had to literally bargain with our kids to get them out of....we went to try skateboarding in "the bowl"; the bowl is mostly flat, with small ramps along the outside making a bowl shape.  Our kids slide down the bowl, and practiced managing balance on the board in various ways. Their staff were so patient, and so invested in our kids. They needed very little guidance, and were more than willing to engage in a child-centered way (i.e. following the lead of our kids).

The best part is, if we go back again we will have the same instructors that our kids now know and love. Thank you Phil and Greg for your effort and enthusiasm!  At CJ's they have really thought of everything, which leads me to believe that are some people on the inside of CJ's who really understand the nature and needs of kids with various ASDs and other communicative and/or social needs...for that, the whole community thanks-you.

All in all, a fun time was had by all and our kids left begging for us to take them back...and we have already booked our next visit.

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