Friday morning, in spite of feeling like like something scraped off the bottom of a shoe, I pulled my (wheezing, coughing, snot-nosed) self together and went to a meeting at a local public elementary school.
There was a talk being given there about after-school and weekend sports programs for special needs children. And specifically, on the flier that Jake's fairy godmother had obviously guided into my hands, there was mention of a basketball program.
Jake loves basketball, loves to watch the big kids play and loves to shoot baskets himself. And also? He's not half bad.
I had been searching for a local SN basketball connection for a long time now, but nothing ever came up on any search engine, nothing but head scratching from any mom I asked.
I was a bit late to the meeting (head cold induced ass dragging and all), missed the basketball guy's presentation, but managed to snag the LAST cup of coffee from the Dunkin Donuts box (score!) and there was even a little milk left for it. So I caffeinated myself and sat and listened all about martial arts and SN kids and how balance is hard for many SN kids, but improving it is important for the brain.
All interesting stuff, but where was that basketball guy? Thankfully, still there, sticking around to answer questions at the end.
And afterward a small group of moms swarmed the basketball coach, surrounding him, our eyes all anxious and hopeful. And he was such a nice guy. He stayed and stayed; talked to us for a long time, explaining the program in depth, answering specific questions, allaying fears.
Yes, they will take a non-verbal autistic kid: not a problem, they pair them with an older teenage volunteer "buddy" for a one-on-one connection. One word came to my mind: support.
The coach told us something wonderful. He said after lessons and practice and drills, they play a short game every Saturday, and somehow or other, for this youngest age group? It's always a tie game.
He laughed and demonstrated how he stands in front of the scoreboard during the game and then quickly manipulates the numbers at the end to come out that way. "Look 40 - 40... another tie!"
He said he does it because so many of these kids are sensitive and might fall apart at being on the losing team. And also there are some kids who only want to play when they win, and this keeps them coming back. Maybe next week, they'll win...
I was contrasting this with a horrific story I had read at a diary of a mom this week about a child participating in a basketball program that the mom had supposedly carefully vetted beforehand. A place the mom had THOUGHT was supportive of SN kids. But they ended up engaging in a practice that boggled my mind. I can't even describe it here, it will make my blood boil.
Go read that post here, then come back. If you really don't want to, let's just say that meanness and humiliation were involved. A complete lack of thoughtfulness and sensitivity on the part of the coach. A set-up for bad feelings, even if the boy had been typical.
I thought about the difference between this coach and that "coach" all day. I was so damn happy I had stumbled upon this meeting, finally found this program, so right for my son. I had to contain myself to stop from jumping up and down in glee as I walked out of the auditorium into the wan autumn sunshine.
Still, I broke out into a huge grin, and am sure I looked slightly deranged as I picked up some of my favorite Winesap apples at the weekly Friday farmer's market that sets up in front of the school. The market workers were all swaying from foot to foot, blowing on the fingertips peeking out of their functional fingerless gloves. The hot cider was selling at a brisk pace.
Late fall is most assuredly upon us. And finally, this year, that will mean basketball season for Jacob.
I dare not tell him about it yet, because he will want to go RIGHT NOW and play. Waiting, patience, understanding what "in 2 weeks" means? Not his strong suit.
But come December 4th we will be there in that gym. I will have bells on and my son will be the happiest clam on the block.
Jacob will be learning to be part of a team, playing his beloved basketball. For once, not the guy sitting on the sidelines, watching his twin brother Ethan participate as a member of the group.
The belonging will belong to Jake, for once. And hopefully? For all.