Thursday, September 27, 2012

Keep Your Head in the Game

My daughter made the tennis team. Many would say this is an astounding feat for someone on the autism spectrum. Let’s face it; gross motor skills and “place in space” have never been her strong point, as is true with many of her Aspie peers. But give her a racket, and she’s “home”.

Watching the matches this season truly has been phenomenal. Our daughter has worked so hard for so many years to get to this point and we are thrilled, even though she only played in a few of them. We also hold another perspective than most of the team’s parents. While some parents are understandably disappointed when their daughter drops a position, we are as happy as clams that ours made it to begin with. (Ok, this begs the question…How do we know clams are happy?) Sure, we want our child to strive to do her best, and we do encourage her to do so, but our journey to this point has been full.

There is a saying that goes along the lines that a large part of playing tennis is mental. Watch the Pros. If the opponent gets into the player’s head (not literally), that player will start to make mistakes. As those mistakes increase, so does the level of frustration. Depending on the player’s self-control and focus, the mental aspect of the game may turn the tide in the opponent’s favor. Mind over matter truly can make a difference in the outcome of the game.

Our journey with autism is largely the same, isn’t it? Sure, we want our kids to behave in public. Who doesn’t? (Ok, maybe that mom who is letting her children do cartwheels down the aisles, with chocolate candy crumbs dripping off their round faces, singing aloud to the stale music playing in the store…We’ve all seen her before, right?) But there are times our child is being fairly well behaved and we still receive sideways glances. Or maybe the bluntness of our child on a day when we are physically and emotionally exhausted gets the best of us, tempting us to react in a way we’d rather not. It’s at times like this we need to keep our head “in the game”.

Don’t let that stranger take your eyes off the ball (your child, your child’s progress, etc.). Don’t let that relative force you to move your position, resulting in a foot fault.

Know that as there are often many supportive people in our lives, whether family, professionals, eFriends (people we meet via FB groups, etc.), friends* we can call and do coffee with; there are others who will do their best to throw off our game. They may say the ball is actually an apple or the solid point you made is out of bounds, when it isn’t.

Keep your eye on the ball (your child) and work to keep your team (family, professionals, etc.) strong so that the end game results in a win for your child and her personal growth time after time after time!

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*(And no, not everyone has friends, and we all need to be sensitive to this! Not everyone has someone nearby to talk to and share everyday moments with. The sad reality is that autism often isolates parents from social circles. Not always. But to act as if this part of life is “rosy” for all involved does a great disservice to those whose hearts are lonely and aching. If you are feeling like an island, know that you are not the only one feeling this way. Many other parents feel the same. And it does not mean this situation will last a lifetime – hang in there! And for those who know parent’s with spectrum kids, reach out  - but only if you mean it! No one likes to feel like they are someone’s “project”. ~peace)

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