Stories From the Heart: Special Needs Kids and Team Sports
It is a bright sunny day and the weather is perfect for a soccer game. The soccer ball is coming fast down the grassy field. The boys are all trying to defend it by kicking the ball away. My 11 years old HFA and Asperger son is on this defensive team. He is ready and kicks the ball out from between the offensive players’ legs. What a save right?
My Autistic sons’ stories don’t generally end that simple, but it appears after each moment in time, and in this case there is no disappointment.
But then the offensive boy calls my son a name. It doesn’t matter what the name is. My son no longer cares about the soccer ball. He heads straight for the player and pushes him to the ground. Of course this is not permitted in a soccer game and he gets carded and sent out. His frustration level is high now and he can’t calm down. He runs away to get all of the emotion out of his body, head and later calmly returns. Everyone is wondering what happened.
It is tough for our special needs children to be involved in team sports. Team sports should be a rewarding and fun time. I have spoken to many parents that don’t involve their special needs kids in team activities anymore. It just became too difficult and I am sad about this.
For one, it is such a good way to get the exercise and high level of physical activity our kids need. Secondly, being part of a team typically enhances friendships because they have this sport in common and enjoy it together. Generally our special needs kids are lacking in friendships due to the inability to understand the complex relationship in being and having a friend or at the other end of the spectrum because they are the ones being teased, taunted and bullied.
As my son grows older in age, his maturity grows at a much slower rate than the other boys on his team. He has asked us that we not tell the others that he is autistic because most team players do not understand autism and don’t want to be educated on it. Now at the soccer games, I am fearful that he will act out or say something inappropriate.
He will outcast himself as he has done so many times before unbeknownst to himself. We attempt to explain to him these non-existent social rules. He listens and says that he understands but as soon as he steps onto the field, they are forgotten or missed. He loves this game and he is a good player.
In the end all he wants from the game is a friend, but the playing field is not fair just like in life. The lack of fairness in life is a good lesson for anyone to learn, but these special needs kids are already at a disadvantage once diagnosed and to continue this theme in their life just places an even greater emphasis on how much they have to overcome to be accepted.
By Monica Johns
* Stories From the Heart is an ongoing series of user contributed heart warming stories, that shine light on the Autism and special needs experience.