Tyler started soccer on Tuesday. I have been wanting to sign him up for get him involved in some team sports this year so I finally called the city recreation center last week. They were starting a new soccer session on Tuesday so we signed him up. Last Saturday we took him to Gart Sports and got him a soccer ball and some cleats. He was so excited and anxious to start. Tuesday finally rolled around and he was so dang cute in his soccer garb! He ran out to the field and the coach asked him what his name was. He replied "Spiderman." The coach laughed and asked him again and then he said "Tyler." They started by dribbling the ball down the field and back. I have to say that it takes some coordination and Tyler did pretty well! A few times he would miss the ball and get ahead of it and then he would have to turn around and get going again. All the little kids were so cute out there!
Then the coach started some drills where he would tell the kids to stop and put a different body part on the ball when he blew his whistle. First it was their tummy, then they were supposed to sit on the ball, then their foot, etc. Tyler really struggled with this and he would just keep running and kicking the ball instead of stopping. The coach was really good - working with him and trying to explain what he wanted him to do, but Tyler just had a hard time with it for some reason. All the kids would be stopped and Tyler would still be running. The coach kept blowing his whistle and telling him to stop. Then Tyler would realize what was going on and see the other kids and he would finally stop.
We didn't tell the coach about Tyler's autism before he started because we just wanted to see how he would do. As a parent, I struggle with this part of it - not knowing what to do. Do I "label" him and announce that he has autism or do I throw him into the mix and hope that he blends in?? On one hand, I don't want the coach to be too easy on him and not expect compliance from Tyler but I also don't want the coach to think that he is not following directions on purpose. I don't want the coach to go crazy and think that Tyler is naughty when the fact is that he just might not understand. We decided that we will talk to the coach and explain things to him. We will make it clear that we want him to push Tyler and keep him in the mix. We don't want him to just ignore Tyler and let him go off doing whatever he wants. Tyler just needs a little more explanation and a little push and encouragement. I know that he really wants to do it right and he wants to succeed. He wants to be a part of it all... he just needs some extra help. I hope that the coach is willing to work with him and that this will be a good thing.
I sat there behind my sunglasses with tears in my eyes - so proud of him and thankful for him and yet sad at the same time. I wonder what he will be able to do and what will be a struggle. I worry about him not fitting in and being teased or laughed at when he doesn't "get" something as easily as the other children. The ironic thing is that I wouldn't change him - he is my Tyler and he is perfect just the way he is. He might struggle learning certain things but he has taught me so much! Each day I am reminded that I can't take anything for granted. I have learned to appreciate the little things. Just today he climbed up on the couch next to me and put his arm around me. He looked me right in the eyes with such sweet adoration and I could feel that he loves me. It might be hard for him to express that love but I know it is there. I have learned that those fleeting little moments are what make my life worthwhile. I could just sit there with him forever with his arm around me and his head on my shoulder. I have learned to savor these moments. Nothing is more important than taking the time to express my feelings to the people I love. No "to-do list" item is more pressing than stopping for a moment to just "be" with my boys - loving them and feeling their love in return.
Anyway... Tyler absolutely loved soccer and that is what truly matters. It doesn't matter if he does exactly the right thing at exactly the right time. I am just happy that he is happy and that he had a good time. He would come over to me during water breaks with a huge smile on his face and he would say "I'm doing a super great job, Mom." Then he would take one quick drink from his water bottle and tell me "I have to go back now, Mom." He was having such a great time and he was so proud of himself! Each time I would tell him how proud I am of him and send him back out there... I guess that is the answer - I will always and in each new situation just tell him how proud I am of him and send him out there with all my encouragement and love.....