Updated: Sep 5, 2018
When our journey began as special needs parents after the diagnosis, we went through the "I need to fix this mode". We read books, blogs, we created appointments ... and more appointments. There was a lot of trial and error during this period (which, admittedly, still continues), as well as a lot of time spent on the cause. I think the efforts spent on trying to "fix" the issue helped me to work through some of the emotions. I had to reset my entire vision for my son. That was tough and took time to reconcile. And if I am honest with myself, I continue to go through these resets fairly often (I am a SN mom work-in-progress). These moments typically arise when our boy is placed in situations with his neurotypical peers. It is then that our son's disability is glaring. We have grown accustomed to his individual traits: the way he speaks (honestly, we are just happy he can speak), the stimming noises and the constant need for affirmation. There are the ten questions repeatedly asked because it is an easy and comfortable way for him to start a conversation, and there is the fascination with ALL road signs - big ones, small ones, official ones, handwritten ones, temporary ones. We can no longer take a right hand turn on a red light without our son first looking for a “No Turn on Red” sign. If there is no such sign, and we make the turn, anxiety will follow with a high chance for tears - mostly because he doesn’t understand that not all red lights are created equal. These are things that make our son unique and we have grown to love it ... all of it. But, I do develop anxiety myself when we introduce our boy to activities where others may not be so forgiving of these traits.
Baseball. We are in our third season. It is a slower sport. It is outdoors, so less chance for loud noises. At 8u there is less chance for defensive action - a major plus! We have done other sports - karate, swimming, soccer, basketball, bowling. Some have been inclusive endeavors, and some have been exclusively with his peers who also have a disability. We have had some major successes. We have had some epic fails. But it is with baseball that we found the "secret sauce". We spent a full winter taking private lessons with a baseball coach. It was slow at first - one lesson was spent learning how to keep the glove on, but after some time our son's interest grew. The origin? Hitting - he loves to swing the bat and hit the ball. I don't know if it is due to the sound it makes, the distance the ball goes, or if it is the reaction from others when he makes what he calls a "monster" hit. Whatever it is ... the boy loves to hit. This love gives him the patience for all the rest that is involved with the game. And, at this age, there can be a lot of patience needed. So, we played 8u for two seasons and Daniel loved it. There were a ton of monster hits! The other kids were wonderful, as were the coaches and parents, and we felt like we finally did something the right way. Parents 1 Autism 0.
And as with anything, once you get comfortable, things change.
Our boy had to move to 10u this year. The league offered to keep him with the younger crowd, but he is tall and athletic and one of those "monster" hits almost took out a 6-year old last season, so we moved him up, albeit nervously. Our daughter plays competitive softball so we have seen the intensity of some of these coaches and parents and feared that this would be the end of our baseball career. And then I got an email. It was our son's new coach. He wanted to talk to me. We had one practice under our belt. It went well but the coach had not interacted with a child with autism before and he wanted to know more. He wanted to be a good coach to all the kids...including Daniel, but just needed some guidance. Should he not joke? How should give directions to Daniel? What is the best way to make him understand?...All amazingly wonderful questions. I was elated by the gesture.
While we have not explained Daniel's autism to the children on the team, I think they know. It is the generation that has probably learned more about differences than any generations before. The kids are good to him. The good players guide our boy during drills and give him compliments...especially for his hitting (I think that has given him some street cred). We will see how the first game goes tonight. It wouldn't be true to say that I am not nervous. I have been nervous all week. But, I have realized that my expectations were in reset mode again this last month, but for all the right reasons.
And that gives me faith...that baseball isn't quite over yet for our boy...and that the act of resetting is not always a bad thing. Parents 2 Autism 0.