For what most parents find as an ordinary weekend event, chaperoning my 9 yr old to his badminton practice was definitely a day to remember for me.
I woke up 4:00 AM so I can prepare a special breakfast for the kids and get our stuff ready before 7:00 AM. Andrei woke up at exactly 6:00 AM. This is his routine since his school starts an hour later on weekdays. And once he gets into a habit, it takes a lot to break it.
We watched some of his morning cartoons before he started getting ready. We are supposed to meet his coach and the other players at the school gym which is just a 5 min walk from our house.
Enrolling him to a regular school might not be the best for him. Those words still ring in my ears.
He transferred to his new school just this year and I’ve always worried for him. We started to walk.
“Mama, if I lose, that’s okay ,right? Because I will have fun anyway?” Andrei said.
For him to understand, he needs to see it…consistently.
I gave him a slight nod and a smile. I think he understood.
When we got to the gym, I saw Andrei’s coach loading up the players on the school bus. She told me they’ll need to practice somewhere else with a better gym facility and I can join them if I wanted.
He will function better on familiar surroundings. He will easily get overwhelmed.
“I’ll definitely go with you if you don’t mind, please.”
As a working single mom, I’m blessed with many of my relatives who are more than willing to be baby sitters on weekdays. But on weekends, I try to make up for it. It’s my first time to meet the other players and his coach. As we got on the bus, I quickly scanned the excited mini-athletes. They didn’t seem to notice us as they busily chatted with the other kids.
He will have a hard time getting along with the other children.
“Hello Marcus! Hi ma’am! Are you Marcus’ mom?” waves a few girls who look to be about 5 years older than him. They’re calling him with his first name. It was nostalgic for me. I remember my days when school meant a whole new world for me. I can create my own nickname, I can choose my own friends, and it’s practically like a new place to be a new me.
We sat at the back of the bus and patiently waited to get to the practice venue.
His disorder might also affect his physical development.
“Andrei, aren’t you the smallest among the players?” I must said that too loud as one of the students in front of us stood up and faced us.
“Hello, I’m Krizel. Yeah, he is the smallest… and the youngest too. His doubles partner is like a feet taller than him. He’s like our baby.” Did he pass the group because he is cute? I thought jokingly.
“But he is one of the quickest!” she pressed on excitedly. “He moves and catches the ball really quick, we so envy his energy.”
You need to watch his diet. Not too much sugar. He’s going to be very hyperactive if you don’t control it.
They told me that he and his doubles partner is actually one of the reasons why they want a better facility for practice. He can’t seem to grasp the rules inside the school gym. They thought maybe because it was too small and muggy. He hasn’t been on a real badminton court to so they want to see him play with an actual badminton net and court.
Some with the same condition as he does will have difficulty getting instructions. If you write them down on a board where he can always see it, it might help.
I seriously like this group of kids.
There were three available courts for them to practice on. They did some warm ups while I found myself a comfortable corner to watch from. Two girls from high school and the coach called Andrei to join them start some practice rallies. He wasn’t half bad at all. He loved the game.
When they started practicing his serves, it went downhill.
“Andrei, that’s not allowed when you’re serving.”
“Andrei, your serve was short!”
“You have to serve from the right side…its odd number now so serve from the left…”
Show him, don’t tell him. Show him.
Andrei started stomping his feet across the court each time he failed. He looked frustrated and seemed like he was about to cry.
Too many voices; too many words.
I asked the coach if I can help. He was nice enough to let me. I borrow an extra racket and asked Andrei to join me on the other court. It’s been a while since I played this game but I still remember the basics. I showed Andrei the basic position when serving to get to the direction we needed and for it to reach the other side of the court. Seeing it done made it easier for him. After 20mins of just us practicing, he improved a lot. He beamed with delight as he felt more confident.
I told his coach to just yell “Watch your feet, watch how you hold the racket.” Next time he forgets the serving position. That’s the keyword I used and the more repetitive he hears them; it will make more sense to Andrei. It’s just another habit he is learning. The coach’ nod was meek and measuring. I hope I didn’t make him feel like I was stepping into his toes.
Andrei played better and was in a better mood at the rest of the practice. Inside, I’m struggling if I should mention to the coach that Andrei is special. The last thing I wanted was for them to think that I’m asking for a special treatment for my son. I only wanted them to understand.
Back at the bus, Andrei immediately dozed off. He looked happy.
I sat next to the coach and asked if he’s got a minute. He probably dread having to deal with parents all the time who thinks they know better.
“Andrei was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder when he was 3 years old. I’d like to tell you more about him if you have the time.”
The coach obviously did not expect what I said. Andrei looked normal for the most part. He laughs and plays like the other kids. He has gestures that most would confuse as just another mannerism. But there’s more to it. We talked until we got back to school. We agreed that I can help out in training every chance I got. And I think for the both of us, it has been an interesting day.
I’m in no way attempting to educate the people around me what Autism is about as I’m still learning it myself as I tread through life with my little boy. The word ‘spectrum’ describes the range of difficulties that people with ASD may experience and the degree to which they may be affected. Some people may be able to live relatively normal lives, while others may have an accompanying learning disability and require continued specialist support. As for my son, I don’t know which route he’ll take. I just pray that I have the strongest heart so I can walk with him along the way, and along the road, maybe I get to meet one person at a time and tell them how special life is when in a constant colorful puzzle.
While some people live within the box…
and some thinks outside the box…
My child does not see the box.
Learn more about Autism.