Rally to Support Guests with Cognitive Diagnoses


–Beth Fox, RM Adaptive Chair

In snowsports today, guests are looking for successful and engaging experiences, resorts strive for guest loyalty, and instructors seek satisfaction in a job well done. In pursuit of all these desires instructors can be presented with a mix of guests who may vary in age, skills, motivation, personalities and goals. It can be challenging to meet the needs of all guests, especially if an instructor does not have depth of experience in specific areas of teaching. While visiting a snowsports school recently, this was exactly the situation I overheard being discussed in the next locker row. The instructor seemed dismayed that a guest with a cognitive disability had been placed in his class. It was frustrating for the instructor to identify and support the needs of the guest as well as to get the guest engaged in the learning partnership between himself and other class members.

PSIA is fully supportive of adaptive teaching, skiing methodologies and inclusion, and offers many clinics, manuals, and materials to help instructors gain information and experience to work with these unique sliders – check out the PSIA-RM.org and Thesnowpros.org websites to learn more. However, if you find yourself in need of a quick tool to use in this type of situation, try employing the RALLY model to support guests with cognitive related diagnoses.

  RALLY to Support Guests with Cognitive Related Diagnoses
Respect Respect gets respect. Get to know the person.
Ask Ask questions to learn about the person, their needs and support tools or systems for success. Explore communication, cognitive, affective, physical, and environmental needs.  A chairlift ride may be all that is needed to gain or clarify this information.
Listen Allow processing and response time. Pay attention to the person’s response and check for shared understanding of what is being said and what is needed.
Link Work together to create solutions, plans and next steps. Link in other class members for fun as well as support of the guest.
Yet Allow time for solutions to evolve. Revisit and revise. Share back information on progress with the guest. Encourage independence. Skill acquisition will come, it just may not be there yet.

While getting to know all the learners in your class, find out about anyone whom you think may have special learning requirements. Ask the whole group about what type of support they would like or what would help them feel successful during the learning process. Explore their understanding and motivation as well as their cognitive, affective, physical, and environmental needs. You may be surprised how many people in the class can benefit from support tools identified by one individual.Sometimes we discount people for whom we perceive them to be, what we think they do not know, or cannot learn. A guest with a developmental disability or a brain injury, or person who has survived a stroke probably leads an interesting life, rich with work, school and social experiences. Respect the guest for being their own unique person. Share something of your own uniqueness with this guest to help build respect from their end as well. Setting expectations for guests and placing them in charge of themselves as much as possible is a good way to show respect for others.

Listening to individuals and the whole class with a relaxed and interested countenance signals to all that you genuinely want to know what they are thinking and will allow class members the time needed to process your questions and formulate answers. Focusing on the answers of guests allows you to clarify with them what is being communicated and what may be needed. Consider alternative communication systems such as the note app on your phone or a pad and pencil for guests who are more comfortable communicating non-verbally.

Once guests sense a connection with you as the instructor and between others in the class, a real sense of camaraderie and united purpose can propel everyone toward collective planning, common goals, skill development, mutual support and fun. These are the classes that are so memorable to instructors and guests. They are the experiences many guests seek at resorts today and the reasons why these guests will return to your class again.

A desire to create the perfect lesson experience sometimes causes instructors to hurry forth with plans designed to take care of all challenges. Practice patience and relaxation with yourself and guests and allow solutions to evolve with time. Revisit and revise goals, plans, learning segments and activities with the guest. Help guests further grasp concepts, ideas and information to anchor learning by engaging in discussions about what the person thinks and feels about the skill they are working to develop. Each person has a unique brain and way of learning, they may just not have the physical movement or concept yet and need to proceed on a pathway to support their learning needs.

Author Gregory Scott Reid said, “The greatest success we’ll know is helping others succeed and grow.” By following the RALLY model, you and your guests with cognitive related diagnoses will both find success.

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