Wednesday, November 18, 2009

...Does Basketball End?

Well, we had our second practice with the Special Olympics Basketball team last night. Disastrous is an understatement! I was trying very hard to be optimistic last week, I think I was just making excuses.

There are about twelve kids on the team. They range in age from 5th grade to 12th grade. There are all types of special needs and all types of kids represented. There are a couple of kids tooling around the court in wheelchairs, some with autism or autism spectrum disorders, some with Downs Syndrome and other special needs. Some of the kids are a bit more rambunctious than others, some pretty laid back, it's quite a mix. Actually, it is a really neat scene. Well, except from our vantage point.

We are sort of in a tail spin here. Alex loves playing playing basketball! As you may remember, Alex did not fare so well at the Special Olympics bowling tournament.(See earlier post titled What's for Lunch?) We really had high hopes for this basketball event. There wouldn't be the crowd issue. Alex loves basketball. No problems, right?

This sort of feels like we have walked into a bee hive. Alex gets so uptight that he just completely "shuts down" during these practices. His eyes turn into those dark black tunnels, his palms get sweaty, he doesn't respond to anything. We are trying to make this work... he LOVES basketball! He is doing so well managing the 8th grade team with 20 some kids -all loud, this is NOT making sense at all!!!!!!

Ugg... When things like this start happening, you start thinking about everything (and I mean everything!) that has gone wrong in all 13 years to look for a pattern or clue or anything! Sometimes, you find it. Sometimes that's good because you can make adjustments and fix it, and sometimes you find it and can't fix it or you can't find anything and well, that just sucks!

Well.. Guess what??? The good news is, we think we may have found something, the bad news is, well, let's just say bad news!

Remember a few days back I wrote about Alex swiping at the faces of a couple of elderly people when they invaded Alex Land. Well, he did it again, at school several days ago. This time, though, there was no invasion, just fear. Alex was afraid of this young lady. We don't know why. She was a visitor from the high school special education class to his special education class room. She is a very friendly and outgoing, lovely young lady. She has Downs Syndrome. Anyhow, whack went his arm.

I didn't tell you that Alex used to be in a Saturday morning bowling league for special needs kids. It was a really neat thing the bowling alley did. They made sure that all kids had the opportunity to participate in the league. It was much like this Special Olympics Team that Alex is on. It was comprised of a multitude of kids of different special needs and special attitudes. Anyhow, we participated for about a year and a half, then we quit. Alex really didn't like it and we got tired of forcing him to go.

We push Alex to do a lot of things. We figured that we'd give him a pass on this one. In the grand scheme of things did he really need to bowl? Hmmm.... If I only knew then what I think I might know now ...... ????

Now bear with me here for just a minute. Remember, too, that even though it seems like it, I haven't given you our whole life story. But I think we have had an A HA !! moment...

We know Alex doesn't like crowds, we do try to to make him last a little longer each time, but then remove him to de-stress himself. We have always known that Alex didn't like impulsive and unpredictable behavior, we try to help him through some of it, then remove him from stressful environment. We sort of thought that my grandfather scared him, we blamed the Alzheimer's and the wheelchair, and we could all only take so much of my Grandpa at the end.

I know that to some of you this might seem like a stretch. I also know that some of you might get it. But follow along...

...The A HA moment!... You see... Dad and I thought we were protecting and helping Alex through difficult times. Helping him and teaching him to cope with loud crowds. Sheltering him from kids who would impulsively yell or scream, kids that would scare Alex to death, kids that would literally make him wet himself in public. We would expose him to people in wheelchairs until Alex would rock himself so violently we were afraid he'd pull a muscle.

The thing is, while we thought we were protecting Alex, I am afraid that we were also creating some completely new problems. We worked very hard to help Alex cope with his fears and stressors and when he reached a certain limit, we just protected him from them or removed them. We also made it a priority, and I have written about this several times, to make sure Alex had friends and peers in his grade.

What we didn't realize until yesterday, is that all these years of protecting Alex and making sure he had friends, we were really segregating him from his true peers. Now all those things he has been terrified of are on the basketball court.

I have to confess, and apologize, I do feel a bit stupid here. I blindsided myself. Alex is in the special ed classroom most of the day. It just so happens that all of the kids are just like him. He is probably the lowest functioning, cognitively, of them all. But none have significant physical disabilities, none have Downs Syndrome and none have verbal outbursts.

In my attempt to help Alex through some of his difficulties, I unintentionally kept him away from a certain population group... the population group that he belongs to... kind of ironic... I think I would do the same thing again, though... hmm...

Now, as for Alex being afraid of the elderly, I choose to ignore that for now. They tend to be a bit aggressive towards kids and do invade Alex Land a lot. Besides, it's one thing at a time around here!

We've been through some very diffficult times before, and really in the grand scheme of things, this one doesn't even compare! But, this is gonna be tough, How do I desensitize a kid to kids who are just like him?...

I am open to suggestions ?????


Kimberly said...

It sounds like Ales is happy, but I am sorry I have no "helpful" suggestions. It sounds like you know the needs and desires of your child.

Maybe just a little quiet time, and you will find your answer?!

Virginia Mom said...

My brother (now a grown 34 year old man) is mentally handicapped- he exhibits behaviors associated with various disabilities, but after all these years they still cannot put a difinitive label on him. At any rate, as a kid he always had difficulties in just about every social setting he was placed in- guaranteed, there was always going to be some problem. It sounds like you have been "rolling with the punches"- and unfortunately, that's pretty much the best you can do. (Or at least that was the final outcome in my family's situation.) Hang in there!