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The Tesler and Bryman family out on the ice

The Tesler and Bryman families out on the ice

We have tried ice skating with Magnolia several times over the past few years. When she was smaller and younger, it was a lot easier to hold her up and let her ice skate while we supported her body weight. The last time we went, we discovered this was no longer physically possible for us. Honestly, I had a slight panic attack. We had adapted so well and to be somewhere and what we had been doing, to not work, it was hard on all of us. She wasn't having fun and neither were we.

We hadn't brought Magnolia's wheelchair, because she is ambulatory and we prefer her walking. So, when we realized she couldn't do it with our own support, we asked the ice skating rink if they had any way to adapt ice skating for kids with disabilities. They said they did not. AJ pointedly asked them if they thought it was ok to have a business that wasn't ADA compliant. They scrambled to find a chair for her to sit in. On the ice, a regular chair glides and with that simple adaptation, Maggie was able to skate. What we learned that day, the easiest and safest way to adapt ice skating is to push her in her wheelchair.

When I asked Andrea Bryman if Charlotte wanted to go ice skating with us, she said, “Absolutely.” I was thrilled. We have known the Bryman family since Magnolia’s diagnosis, which was also around the same time Charlotte was diagnosed with Rett syndrome. Charlotte is 22 years old now. She was diagnosed with Rett syndrome when she was 12 years old. Charlotte has always had an adventurous spirit and we have always been inspired by her parents, Andrea and Ron. They fought for Charlotte for years without a diagnosis, it’s admirable and eye opening.

The Tesler and Bryman families after a successful day of ice skating

When I first discussed ice skating with Andrea, I told her we didn't need to make it complicated. We could ice skate pushing both Magnolia and Charlotte around the rink. Both Charlotte and Magnolia are ambulatory but also use wheelchairs for longer distances. Ice skating isn't an easy activity to jump into. It takes a lot of core work, balance, and motor, planning to ice skate. So, while we could have done this the simple way, as evidenced by our matching outfits in all these episodes, we're a bit extra. We wanted to see if we could adapt a more typical experience for her.

Figuring out how to adapt this activity, is probably one of the hardest adaptations I've done. Most of the accessible tools require the use of your hands. Which is great that those are out there, but for someone without hand function, it's trickier. This required some ingenuity and some tears. In the end, I found two different items. The first being a roller skate trainer, and the second being an ice skating training aid , mostly for toddler/preschool age children. The ice skate training aid would have been perfect if Magnolia was smaller but she was too tall for it. The roller skating training aid was the perfect height but didn't have the seat support that the other aide had. We had to buy both to make this work. Along with the two training aides, we bought Skateez to connect to her skates for added stability. Instead of balancing on the blades, she was able to balance with the use of the aides. Three different tools in order to make sure Magnolia was safe. We had also never tried it before we were already there, and not knowing until we got to the rink if this configuration would work was stressful.

Figuring out how to adapt this activity, is probably one of the hardest adaptations I’ve done. Most of the accessible tools require the use of your hands.

Jenny Tesler, Magnolia’s Mom

It did take some time and strength to get Maggie into the contraption. We had to do it on the ice because the rink wouldn’t have been fully accessible if we tried to get her set up on solid ground. But once we got going, she was comfortable and safe.

Andrea and Charlotte both saw our contraption for Magnolia to stand in and wanted to try it. I actually wasn’t shocked. Andrea and Ron taught me, no matter the diagnosis, you keep advocating, keep believing anything is possible. I know because they did that for Charlotte, Charlotte believes in herself. Even with Rett syndrome, even having never done ice skating before, Charlotte too wanted to know what it felt like to stand and ice skate. Sitting in the chair was fun, but trying something out of her comfort zone, well that’s Charlotte.

Episode 4: Horseback Riding With the West Family

10:41 min | 6/25/24

Magnolia and the West family saddle up for an unforgettable horseback riding experience and practice staying regulated in a new environment.