• Katie Vahey Gaebler

The Climbing gym

Updated: Jan 28, 2021

It took weeks for us to be able to schedule a private session for Bryson at our local climbing gym (their policy that they need 3 weeks to confirm a reservation). Today is Bryson’s second session, 2 weeks in a row, and I’m so grateful to the enthusiastic young man hosting B’s instruction. Today, as last week (and most days), before we left the house, he was jumpy, licking everything, challenged to eat his breakfast, and struggled to focus on anything I said or presented to him. I know what a privilege it is to be able to schedule a private session for him, and honestly I don’t know how we would do it any other way. We’ve tried group lessons, swimming, soccer, etc., and he just can’t get into it or follow directions. Last week when we were here there were dozens of kids in a camp program. Clearly this was distracting to B, but he was engaged in the novelity of this new activity. This week, barely anyone else was here, and B and the instructor can zero in on each other. Nonetheless, I’ve needed to coach him through his distracted moments. Even so, I am thankful to have a few minute of respite from the constant shepherding typically required.


This gym is less than 10 minutes from our home, and this warehouse style building must have hundreds of routes. As expected, B has mostly been on the intro level routes, and his first few times he goes up maybe half way. With each new route he does venture a little further. I am proud of him that he communicates when he is feeling scared from being too high, but with encouragement he seems to find a bit more confidence to go higher with each route accomplished.


In addition to finding an outlet for his energy, and to create a little respite for me, I’ve been looking for an activity that can appropriately stimulate his sensory need. His sensory cravings are insatiable, and it’s a challenge to keep up with his demands, fidgeting, impulsiveness, and level of energy. The bi-lateral sensory intake and tactile stimuli he gains from climbing is invaluable, and I see how he his able to focus a little better through the rest of the day.


He consistently shows high cravings for sensory input, manifesting in climbing, crashing into things, putting everything in his mouth, and alternating between gravitating and reverting to the strongest smells and tastes. He has rotated through obsessions of grinding chalk into fine powder, making concoctions with any kitchen ingredient I’ll allow, chewing on his clothes and furniture (but not chewlery!), and jumping fences as if walls didn’t exist. This is just to name a few of the things that typically have us say “oh Bryson…”. But truly, if I could find a sport to help him guide his energy into, I feel as he gets older, this can only benefit him.

School starts again next week. While I’m excited for the structure that school will offer our lives again, it doesn’t leave much room for climbing lessons. I know it’s a good thing to rotate his activities, the novelity actually helps his focus, but I hope he’ll ask to climb more often.

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