Last year we took Rachel to Special Olympics (SO) track and field practice. At first, she walked willingly to the track, excited to see the people. Some had been on the SO swim team we had tried. But then she heard the whistles. And the cheering. And the clapping. And we ran. Once.
She was finished after that. She sat on the track. It took two of us adults to carry her off. Repeatedly. She also kept telling me she needed to potty, her coping mechanism. The third practice Rachel hid in the closet at home and refused to come out.
I could have pushed her last year and made her comply. But I knew in the long run she would hate going, so I didn’t force the issue.
This year we decided to try again.
And things are different. Rachel wears tennis shoes now! Big change from the fuzzy boots she insisted on wearing last year.
She wanted to go potty, but I told her no and she gave up asking after the tenth time.
Rachel also is willing to run a little. True, we are like turtles out there, but she laughs while we go. The whistles bother her, but she only covers one ear.
She also can stand in line better and is more interested in throwing the softballs. Overall, she is calmer and seemed to have a good time–at least I didn’t have to wrestle her at all.
What’s my point?
With autism, and kids in general, sometimes the long way around works. I told the coach I was looking at this with a long-term perspective. We might not compete for several more years, but by going at a slow pace, Rachel learns to think of track positively and is forging friendships I hope she can cherish in the future.
At this point, she does little more than smile and give high fives, but I think of each experience as a tiny brick. Put enough together and you have a sky scraper.
May you build sky scrapers with each smile, each hug, each cherished moment.