Glide to Growth is an organization driven by compassion and a genuine desire to make a positive impact on the lives of neurodivergent and disabled children. Founded by high school junior Amy Ji and run by an enthusiastic team of high school and college students, this remarkable initiative aims to provide a nurturing environment where neurodivergent individuals can explore their potential, build confidence, and flourish.
Ji’s personal experience working with children with special needs inspired her to learn more about the challenges that they face in day-to-day life. Research shows that roughly 70% of individuals with disabilities suffer from mental health concerns brought about by social isolation. Many people with disabilities are excluded from activities because of lack of accessibility as well as discrimination, and as a result, are not given the same opportunities to succeed — or even find hobbies they enjoy.
The benefits of figure skating on health and wellness
Ji’s establishment of Glide to Growth stemmed from a heartfelt aspiration to create an all-inclusive space for youths with disabilities. Recognizing the transformative power that figure skating can have, she was motivated to share its immense benefits with those facing unique challenges. She firmly believes that figure skating can be a catalyst for empowering these young individuals, bolstering their self-esteem, promoting physical fitness, and fostering social connections.
Research has proven that figure skating has a lot to offer children with disabilities. Physically speaking, the sport aids in the development of balance, coordination, flexibility, strength, and endurance, contributing to enhanced motor skills and overall physical well-being. Mentally, figure skating can reduce stress and clear the mind, helping children feel happier and more confident. Through graceful movements and routines, figure skating also provides a medium for self-expression and creativity, providing participants with an outlet to communicate their emotions and experiences.
Moreover, figure skating cultivates a supportive and inclusive environment that encourages social engagement and the formation of friendships. By engaging in Glide to Growth programs, children can establish lasting bonds and develop a sense of belonging, combating any feelings of isolation they may have experienced at school or elsewhere.
Glide to Growth’s skating lessons are based on the U.S. Figure Skating Adaptive Program, which was created to help individuals with physical or mental disabilities enjoy skating in a safe way. The program’s comprehensive manual offers education about the different types of disabilities that children may be facing, how to set up the safest and most accessible environment possible, and other useful tips about communication, instruction, and equipment.
As part of its Figure Skating Adaptive Program, Glide to Growth offers the Skate United track for skaters with physical disabilities. Skate United also offers instruction at all levels, from recreational to competitive, in order to provide individuals with physical limitations the ability to become serious athletes and compete at a high level.
A proactive approach to empowerment
At Glide to Growth, the instructors have taken the time to understand every participant, their disability, and their specific abilities and needs. The organization’s dedicated coaches and instructors are all accomplished skaters — the majority of them Team USA or Team USA alumni — with the appropriate training in instruction, safety, and working with children with special needs. They offer one-on-one instruction to each child, providing personalized support and guidance while still offering opportunities to interact with others.
Glide to Growth now has branches in several parts of the country and the world, including Chicago, New Jersey, Washington, D.C., France, Russia, Sweden, Switzerland, Australia, and the UK. All the individuals who take part in it possess extraordinary qualities. Despite their young age and numerous responsibilities as high school students, they showcase remarkable accomplishments in academics, figure skating, and various other extracurricular pursuits. Simultaneously, they wholeheartedly devote their time and energy to the operation of this organization that brings about positive change. Their enduring enthusiasm, dedication, and unwavering commitment serve as an outstanding source of inspiration.
Furthermore, these young leaders epitomize the virtues of empathy and compassion. They have taken it upon themselves to create secure and nurturing places for both neurodivergent children and those with disabilities, recognizing the inherent value of every individual and the joy that figure skating can bring them. Their proactive approach stands as a testament to the immense potential and capabilities of young individuals, reminding us that age should never hinder one’s ability to make a constructive impact on society.
Glide to Growth transcends its role as a mere figure skating organization — it shines as a symbol of hope and empowerment for children with neurodivergence and disabilities. The young founders and volunteers of Glide to Growth lead the way toward a future where everyone is embraced, supported, and empowered to achieve unprecedented accomplishments.