I've been wanting to get Wyatt enrolled in some kind of team sport for a while now, for several reasons - First, I think it would be really good for him socially to learn to work as part of a team. His natural inclination is to play next to other kids rather than with them. I know that this is part of the autism, but I also know that there's a point coming (very soon) where the social give and take is going to crucial to him developing lasting friendships. Second, he's a little bit of a klutz. He comes by it honestly, I can't ever remember a time where I didn't have at least 1 bruise on me. Third, I think it would be a great confidence booster for him, and with the specter of adolescence rearing its pimply, greasy haired, body odor laden head I want to give him as much self confidence as possible before other kids start picking away at it.
He's in the after school program at the YMCA, and the director of the program - a fantastic guy names Shawn - has been taking the kids outside and having them play touch football. Shawn is just great with Wyatt, he's patient and accepting, but he doesn't let him off the hook. He treats Wy just like the other kids and has the same expectations for him, which is exactly what Wyatt needs. So when Shawn told me he thought Wy should sign up for the flag football team I decided to give it a shot.
We've tried the team sport thing before, a couple of years ago, and it was a dismal failure. The soccer coach had no patients for Wy and she kept trying to turf him off to another team. After 3 practices with my kid sitting on the sidelines, or being sent across the field to a different coach and ending up in tears I finally pulled him out.
But I figured he's older now, more mature, and so we'll give this a shot. Today was his first practice, and when I say my kids NOT an athlete I really can't stress that enough!
The coach had the boys line up and had them start running drills around some cones - Wyatt ran the cones in full autistic glory - hands flapping, and making train noises at the top of his lungs. I damn near wet my pants laughing! Then he had the kids throwing and catching the ball.
Wy throws a football the same way he bowls - overhand with both hands and yelling HARGH as he releases the ball - the poor kid trying to catch it looked terrified for a second or 2. He catches a ball kind of like his mother does - head turned to the side and eyes closed as if bracing for impact.
Now I know how my father felt as he sat through softball practice with me. It's this odd mixture of bemusement and shame, with a little dash of horror mixed in.
At one point Wy asked the coach if he could go sit down because (and these are his exact words) "We're doing something that's new to me, and I get a little anxious when I try something new, so I have to go sit down now"
Yeah, he's autistic, but he knows how to play it up too!
Wy came walking over to me and sat down, I gave him a drink of water and sent his little butt right back into practice! He tried to argue, saying he wanted to go home, he had a very important meeting to attend (Yep, that's straight out of a Sponge Bob episode), and I told him "NO. You are no different than any other kid on your team, they're practicing, you get your butt back over there and practice too."
I refuse to let him use his autism as an excuse to not participate to the fullest level that he's capable of. He may have to work harder than the other kids to stay focused, but I know he can do it, and I won't lower the bar out of pity or guilt.
I made him march his little fanny right back out on the field and stay there for the rest of the practice, and I'm glad I did, because the next time the coach had them run a play, he made Wyatt run, and Wy actually caught the ball!
He was so proud of himself for doing it,the kids on the team patted him on the back, and I'm so glad I stuck to my guns. Now he said he's actually looking forward to practice and the game next week, and so am I.