Springboard to success: Benefits of a gymnastics program for one traumatized adolescent

Craig R. Thibaudeau (2007)

This study presents a unique look into the life of a 19 year old young man, "Billy," who was severely abused and neglected for the first seven years of his life. Traumatic experience in childhood, whether it is physical, sexual or verbal abuse, or neglect can have a severe and enduring impact on the developing child. Physical abuse has consistently been cited in the literature to be associated with later violent and aggressive behaviors as well as an increased risk of substance abuse, suicidal and self-harmful behaviors. Abused children are particularly difficult to treat; they do not trust easily, they feel damaged, they test therapists' patience, and they fear their own impulses. At best, traditional psychotherapy with these children is challenging. This study describes the use of therapeutic gymnastics as an intervention that was meaningful to Billy. Billy's story is an amazing one in that his successes with gymnastics offers hope that other traumatized youth might equally benefit from the sport. Gymnastics offered Billy a unique and fulfilling therapeutic experience which led to internalizations of competency, mastery, and of him as a successful person in the world.