Gliding Stars provides therapy on ice for people with disabilities

Program provides therapy on skates

MAITLAND, Fla. – Terri Miskiv, chapter coordinator for the Gliding Stars of Central Florida, is this week's Getting Results Award winner.

Central Florida isn't exactly known for its winter sports, but the Ice Den at the RDV Sportsplex Athletic Club in Maitland may be the exception. 

Their two ice rinks get heavy use with everything from youth hockey to recreational public skating. But Sundays between August and April, the ice becomes a therapeutic escape for dozens of children and young adults with disabilities. 

"Our kids are all different and ice skating is different in Florida. We're just putting it all together," Miskiv says as she makes her way around the rink checking on students and volunteers. 

"OK, are we ready?" Miskiv says getting everyone's attention. "OK, in pairs we're going straight down the middle."

At practice, a few dozen skaters with varying skill levels prepare for their annual performance showcase called "Shooting for the Stars."

"Everybody wave," Miskiv shouts over the music. "Wave, wave, wave to mom and dad -- big smiles."

There are no shortage of smiles. Everyone is having a great time showing off their abilities. 

"Our biggest hope is that they come here, have some fun and that they can feel like this is a place where they can learn something new with their parents," Miskiv says. "It's a great family bonding time."

Miskiv originally found the program when she was looking for activities for her son who has autism. When the program needed someone to take over leadership, she assumed that role.

"You know this program means a lot to every single person that's here, we don't want anything to happen to it. Somebody needs to invest that time and so that's why I did it," Miskiv says.

Jenny and Brad Osterhaus attend practices with their daughter, Caroline.

"She's been able to meet a lot of great friends, she's had buddies with her that have encouraged her," Jenny Osterhaus says. "It's been just a really great fun thing."  

The skaters can use uniquely designed adaptive ice skating equipment including walkers, harnesses and orthopedic skates. 

The skaters gain increased muscle strength, improve fine and gross motor skills, and experience success, increased confidence and self-esteem.

"Ice skating in particular really focuses on core and a lot of our kiddos and individuals with disabilities don't have enough core strength," Miskiv says. "So, if they're having to use muscles and develop a skill to just focus on stabilizing their whole body in one motion, it really does transfer." 

Jenny Osterhaus, who nominated Miskiv for the Getting Results Award, said she's seen what the classes can do.

"They're free, you know, just doing the things that any kid does. You know, it's not therapy, it's not a medical setting, it's just fun," Jenny Osterhaus says.

At the end of every class, Miskiv says she's already looking forward to the next one.

"I'm most excited to just watch them succeed at something that maybe someone didn't think they could succeed at. That means the most to me," Miskiv says.

There's no age restriction, but anyone interested is asked to contact the Gliding Stars of Central Florida for a consultation.

The skating season runs from August through April, most Sundays from 4:30 p.m. to 6 p.m. For more information, visit the Gliding Stars of Central Florida Facebook page and national organization website. 

About the Author:

Paul is a Florida native who graduated from the University of Central Florida. As a multimedia journalist, Paul enjoys profiling the people and places that make Central Florida unique.