Tag Archive for: Adaptive Skating

Empowering Joy: How Figure Skating Transformed Jayda’s World

Life opens up for all of us at different times and in different ways. Sport is something unique that pushes us, asking us to give it a shot, to improve and most of all, to have fun. Sport also provides social structures and opportunities to bond. In a positive and inclusive sporting environment, people thrive. This is exactly what happened for Jayda Yang when she took up skating.

Jayda started skating at five years old and seven years later, she still loves going to the rink. She thrives off the relationships she has built with her coaches, especially Coach Lisa, and while group activities have been difficult for her in the past, she absolutely loves being involved in programs at not just one but two skating schools in her area. In fact, Jayda loves skating so much that her mother registers her for a double session in the winter.

Jayda is also autistic and has limited verbal communication. For special needs individuals, group and social activities can often be challenging, anxiety provoking and stressful, but just as essential as they are for neurotypical people. Individuals all need a place where they belong and can develop relationships and skating has done just that for Jayda.

The rink has become a place where she is engaged, feels safe, and looks forward to being. Her clubs have adapted to keep her interested and enjoying the experience. Jayda is a very visual learner and sometimes needs things like timers and choices to help her continue to succeed. Her bond with her coaches, particularly Coach Lisa, gives her the motivation to keep going session after session.

Jayda’s autism diagnosis brings with it certain struggles. Some days it can take almost half an hour for Jayda to summon the motivation to get out of bed, but on days when she knows she has skating, she is excited to get up and get going. These are some of the small but hugely impactful differences Jayda’s mother has noticed as a result of skating.

Following her skating sessions, Jayda is “often happier, calmer and more open.” These become teachable moments where they get to communicate more. Jayda has limited verbal capacity and communicates largely by sign language and via an iPad. After skating, she will often sit outside with her mom having a snack and watch other skaters through the window of the arena with a smile on her face.

The clubs that Jayda skates at are a key contributor to this world of difference for her. The class sizes are small at both clubs which allows for more one-on-one attention. These classes are also organized in a way that works well for Jayda, with children moving station to station with their teacher and the rest of their group. Her coaches will also take time to bring her back to the group and have put in place accommodations that ensure a positive experience and the opportunity to learn and progress.

“It sounds like a small thing, but it’s not a small thing. It takes a lot of people’s goodwill and consideration to keep this a positive experience” for Jayda and others who might have additional needs to succeed and thrive in a skating environment.

There is no doubt that Jayda’s clubs, coaches and friends have contributed to her skill development and continue to provide her with a wonderful opportunity to grow. For a parent, there is nothing sweeter than seeing your child find joy, especially after periods of hardship. For Jayda, figure skating is that joy, that social circle we all crave so deeply and a place for her to grow. It’s been a gift and one that will hopefully continue to give to her for years to come.

Rachel Naylor – “My Disability Does Not Define Me”

This is a story about Rachel. Rachel is a 20-something nursing student, who grew up in a small town called Cameron, just outside Lindsay, Ontario, a place most people have never heard of. She has two older brothers, who taught her a lot about competition, what it means to be resilient and never let her get away with feeling ‘different’.

There is something unique and special about Rachel. Her mindset is utterly positive, she’s exceptionally driven, inspiring and in her own words, she doesn’t let anyone tell her what she can and cannot do.

A third-year nursing student and long-time figure skater, Rachel was also born without a left hand. A congenital upper limb deficiency, which means that her left hand never developed during her mom’s pregnancy. Her parents were concerned at first but that quickly faded when Rachel was able to hit all her developmental milestones just as easily as her two older brothers.

At two years old, Rachel fell in love for the first time…with figure skating. Her mother was a figure skater and Rachel wanted to be just like her. At the age of four Rachel was enrolled in CanSkate, where she met her coach, Denise Harris. Rachel’s tenacious and positive spirit was evident even then. Rachel remembers going to the rink dressed in all pink outfit and skating into the boards on purpose.  This high energy and stubborn demeanour caught her coach’s attention.

At six years old Rachel shared that she “demanded that Denise let her skate to the chicken dance song” at her first competition. Thanks in part to her two older brothers, Rachel developed a very competitive spirit, so she took her chicken dance routine very seriously. The result, a clean sweep of first place medals that season.

That determination and dedication stayed with Rachel throughout her skating career and life. In 2016, Rachel qualified for provincials amongst a large pool of other competitors, most of whom were able-bodied. It’s important to note here, Rachel was not given any special considerations or points for her disability. Rachel would go on to qualify for provincials at least two more times, a huge accomplishment given her disability does come with limitations.

As Rachel improved, she noticed a greater impact on her skating. People around her were acquiring higher GOEs, starting to level up their spins with specific variations but Rachel is unable to grab her blade on one side.

“I couldn’t do an A-frame because I wasn’t able to grab the back of my boot,” said Rachel.

For some elements Rachel found herself having to wrap her arm around her leg because of her disability. A totally different approach than her able-bodied competitors.

Despite the challenges and difficulties that come with her disability, Rachel has never let that define her.

“My disability Is not some kind of separate entity here to hold me back. My disability is a large part of the person I am and has shaped my experiences since I was young” shared Rachel.

There will always be limitations, “I will never be a surgeon” she admits. Rachel has had to learn to function in a world that is primary built for people who are able-bodied. Despite all this Rachel moves forward through life with a ‘try first’ attitude.

This attitude is how she is powering her way through a nursing degree at Queens University. When Rachel first enrolled in the program, she was not sure if she would be able to complete it due to the limitations of her disability. While some people would never have signed up in the first place, Rachel’s try first attitude kicked in.

“If I figured out halfway through that I really wasn’t able to do it, I would tackle that when I came to it. But what was the harm in trying?” explained Rachel regarding her decision to enroll in nursing school.

Rachel’s mentality and approach to life and her views on her disability are truly inspiring. Often in life we are limited by our mindset and inner thoughts. Rachel smashes through negative thought and plunges forward.

In closing Rachel shared some advice and insights, “we need more visibility,” she says. “If you show people that you can do this and we have more faces of people with physical disabilities in skating or any sport, it will encourage more people to participate. It’s going to show somebody, hey, there is someone like me. Maybe I can do this?”

Skate Canada Invites All Canadians to #SkateWithUs This Season

OTTAWA, ON: (September 8, 2022) – The skating season is officially upon us and Canadians from coast-to-coast-to-coast are invited to register for a skating program at their local Skate Canada club or skating school. With a wide range of programs being offered, skaters of all ages and abilities can learn various skills at their own pace. 

Skate Canada currently offers three programs: CanSkate for beginners of any age, STAR 1-5 as an introduction to figure skating and PowerSkate for the enhancement of skating skills for hockey and ringette players.  

As the best learn to skate program in the country, CanSkate is geared towards beginners of all ages including children, adults, newcomers and athletes with a disability (AWAD). Whether you are looking to improve basic skating skills for figure skating, hockey, ringette or speed skating, or wish to skate for recreation, CanSkate will help you reach your goals. Join the millions of Canadians, including world and Olympic figure skating champions, Olympic speed skaters, and National Hockey League stars, that have taken their first steps on the ice through the CanSkate program.   

Further skating opportunities include:  

  • Synchronized Skating – for those looking to develop skills and participate in skating as a team  
  • Adaptive Skating – options are available within all our programs for the development of skating skills. Contact your local club for details.  
  • Adult Skating – options are available by contacting your local skating club for details and availability.  

All Skate Canada member coaches hold National Coaching Certification Program (NCCP) status, first aid and valid police clearance checks. Quality instruction is available at all 1,200 member clubs and skating schools across the country.  

To learn more about skating programs near you, please contact your nearest club using Skate Canada’s Find a Club feature. We are excited for you to #SkateWithUs this coming season! 

You may….Skate alone. Skate in pairs. Skate with a Team. Skate with hundreds. Skate for fun. Skate to win. Skate to travel. Skate to exercise. Skate to excel. Skate to relax. But you’ll always… #SkateWithUs. 


Learn to Skate at Your Local Skate Canada Club

OTTAWA, ON: The 2019-2020 ice skating season is beginning in many communities across Canada and all Canadians have the opportunity to register for skating programs at your local Skate Canada club or skating school. Skating is an integral part of the Canadian experience, and with a diverse offering of programs, aspiring participants of all ages can learn at their own speed.

Skate Canada is pleased to offer CanSkate, presented by Canadian Tire, the number one learn-to-skate program in the country. CanSkate is accessible to all Canadians and has been implemented in member clubs and skating schools nationwide.

The CanSkate program is based on principles of Sport Canada’s Long-Term Athlete Development (LTAD), and offers custom tools, professional coaching, a tested and proven curriculum, and delivery methods that guarantee strong basic skills and quicker skating development. The CanSkate program also teaches skills that prepare skaters for other popular Canadian ice sports such as hockey, ringette and speed skating, by working on the skaters’ balance, control and agility.

Learning to skate is a natural part of Canadian life. From early steps on the ice, holding onto a parent’s hand, to skating at a family activity, or moving on to other ice sports, skating is an enriching, active experience. Skate Canada offers three  programs, from CanSkate for beginners of any age to, STAR 1-5 as an introduction of figure skating and CanPowerSkate for the enhancement of skating skills for hockey and ringette.

Skating opportunities include:

  • Synchronized Skating – for those looking to develop skills and participate in skating as a team
  • Adaptive Skating – options are available within all of our programs for the development of skating skills. Contact your local club for details.
  • Adult Skating – options are available through programs. Contact your local skating club for details and availability.

All Skate Canada member coaches hold National Coaching Certification Program (NCCP) status, first aid and valid police clearance checks. Quality instruction is available at all 1,200 member clubs and skating schools across the country.

To learn more about skating programs near you, please contact your nearest club using Skate Canada’s Find a Club and let’s get skating Canada!