Special needs children defy obstacles through ice skating

LAS VEGAS - The challenges start at birth. Challenges with learning, with social skills, communication and health. For children with special needs and their parents, success comes in a variety of forms.

There's something about a fresh sheet of ice. Clean and smooth. It's like a new, flat piece of glass.

"It gives her freedom," said Kenesha Thompson, mother.

A fresh chance to prove everyone wrong.

Six-year-old Zoe Thompson is learning to skate and her mother cannot believe it. Among other things, Zoe has autism.

"A given month, she's typically sick two weeks out of the month," Thompson said. "My daughter is non-verbal. So, she doesn't talk. But when she's on the ice, it's like she's speaking a language and I understand it."

The translation happens at Sobe Ice Arena every few weeks.

Kerry Quinney makes it happen. In her day job, she teaches special education at a local elementary school. In her spare time, she runs Rebels with a Cause. It's a program that allows children with autism and developmental disabilities a chance to try something new, to be social, to push their own boundaries and to succeed.

"I want to show that, these kids can do so many things," Quinney said. "They just have this pre-conceived notion in their minds where, they expect the kids are only capable of so much. We're hoping to change that." 

"Aubrey has autism," said Rachel Gwin. 

For Rachel Gwin, learning to skate helps her as much as it helps her 5-year-old daughter.

"Some days, when they're around typical kids, it's easier to see the things they're lacking," she said. "Don't underestimate these kids, they have a lot more potential than you give them credit for."

Quinney has run the program for about a year. Recently, it's become more popular. She buys the ice time and coaches for free. It's a sign of how much she loves being with these children.

"Well, we could use some sponsorships," she admits.

But what she really wants is to grow because it's working.

"This is not something most people expect autistic kids to do and I didn't either," she said.     

"To take something that's so extremely difficult for most people and to have the children do this, it's like everything else is a piece of cake," Thompson said. "For me, it's me saying to the world, she can."

Right now, Quinney is putting together a choreographed winter skate with the children. She also has a GoFundMe page.


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