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Monday, November 1, 2010

Seasons Come and Seasons Go

I was reminded of this saying as I walked around Zodo's Bowling and Beyond, frustrated with Finbar's lack of coachability in that moment and feeling a bit wistful thinking how very much I would  like to find an activity that he LOVES so much that he will not give up on it, that he will allow himself to be coached by someone, that he will respect an adult and do what he is told.  I had truly hoped and thought that joining the Youth Bowling League, something that he in a very rare case asked US if he could do, might just be THAT motivating to him.  But just prior to that moment Finney had yelled at me that I was bossy, and had already sent one coach walking away in frustration as he tried to talk to him. I began to have doubts that bowling was IT.

It is difficult to describe the feeling I had just then, and have had time and time again over the years as I endeavor to open my child's linear mind and expand his's just not a fun feeling. It is an uncomfortable place to be as a parent.  That place where you watch your child and yourself time and time again, try and give up, try and give up, try and give up, try and fail, and finally, in the end just not try at all.  No resilience. This is the hallmark of an autism spectrum child.  They simply cannot handle the slightest pressure, failure, or demand.  It is a downward spiralling pattern that I caught a glimpse of at the bowling alley as my husband and I repeatedly watched our son throw the bowling ball over his head down the lane in defiance. This because we had tried to coach him to use the great 5 finger hole training ball that the coach had brought over for him at our request.  He was in effect saying "f - u, I will not be bossed around or coached, I am doing this on my terms."  Sigh.

The previous weekend, which was the first time he bowled in the league, he had done a fabulous job, scoring over 100 and taking turns nicely with an older boy he shared the lane with.  He had been high fiving his coach and doing a bit too shamelessly his victory dance with each strike or spare that he bowled.  I thought, wow, what a great confidence builder, hooray, perhaps we have found his niche.  As I chatted away with the League organiser, a mom whose daughter competes and wins scholarship money in bowling, I pictured our family travelling to Los Angeles and Vegas for meets with Finney. I thought about buying him his own bowling ball for his upcoming birthday. I pictured him hanging out with other junior leaguers like the 14 yr olds that were competing a few lanes over.  I thought, this ain't all that bad, this bowling thing.  At least if I can't hang out with the soccer moms on Saturdays, I can have a beer and slice of pizza while I watch.  And they won't ask me to volunteer coach or referee :)

Then today.  Oh well, I thought. Seasons come and seasons go.  First  there was the Gymboree class at age 9 months.  Why won't he stay in the circle and listen to the clown singing and telling stories? I thought.  Instead he would just crawl away and roll balls around the room incessantly.

Then there was My Gym.  Why is he freaking out whenever another child touches him? Why does he hate the ballpit? Why won't he clap his hands along wiht everyone else? When I realized that I could no longer take him there, shortly thereafter his pediatrician mentioned the "A" word.

So, eventually we try Kindermusik. Probably our best run at an enrichment activity, thanks to the very easygoing teacher and the free environment.   I recommend Kindermusik for any child with special needs. It is structured, but there is a lot of freedom within that if your child is not a rule follower. Sadly, it was at the point where Finbar could most benefit from this program, that is, when he went  to the classes on his own, that his behavior was not conducive to a productive learning session at Kindermusik.  So Kindermusik too came and went.

After another failed stint at My Gym, I gave up on extracurriculars for about a year.  Finally earlier this year we tried Karate.  The coach was so so so very understanding and just a great coach.  But Karate is no nonsense. The Sensei has the authority.  After Finbar's first lesson the coach, who had forgotten that Finbar had autism, said to me, "Is he in Kindergarten yet?"  "No" I replied.   "Good", he said, "because he needs to learn how to listen to authority before he goes to Kindergarten. This will be really helpful for him in that way."  "Great", I thought, "can't wait for you to teach  him to do THAT."  4 weeks later he sent my first month's tuition check back with a note in the memo line "we tried".  Yes, we tried. And failed. AGAIN. Perhaps if I sell his uniform and karate DVD on ebay for a few bucks I will feel better.

After Karate, we lucked out a bit. After the book "Horse Boy" came out, I decided to get Finbar into riding lessons. A therapist's mother agreed to give Finbar lessons. He stuck with this for about 6 months, but did take a break at one point. We had to quit after his lesson horse died. I am currently looking for a therapeutic program for him to join. He has asked to do lessons again. Fingers crossed.

In spring, I tried to coax Finbar into doing an adaptive baseball little league. It is a fabulously run non-competitive program. They get uniforms too.  He would have nothing to do with it. "I don't want to try it, I can't hit a baseball."  He, like many other nerdy kids is not sporty and coordinated.

I signed him up for one art camp over the summer. Taking a big risk to have him go it alone.  It was just 3 hours a day for a week and the theme was outerspace and planets, so I figure he would be motivated.  He did fine apparently.  I continue to try and find an art program that would suit him, one that has an understanding teacher and less than 10 kids.

It is soccer season now.  Well, let's just say "fugghedaboudid".

Another program he started last winter was a Wilderness Youth Program. 3 hours a week of outdoor exploration at local beaches, deltas, reservoirs, parks and such. At first he LOVED it. I thought Eureka, this is IT. He thrives in the outdoors.  Fast forward 6 months and he is being teased and bullied and quits.  I can't blame him for wanting to quit. Guess that wasn't IT.

Last week, I found a new program in town that was offered an Engineering with Legos camp.   The owner has a son with Aspergers and was very very encouraging.  She offered to be at the class while the teacher led it. Even said there was no need to have Finbar go with an aide.  I hung tight, bit my tongue, crossed my fingers, said Hail Mary's, "Please God, please please please let him enjoy this and do well."  I was not hopeful as I left Finbar in the class, hurling insults at a boy who had started playing with a Lego thing that he wanted. But I left and had my husband pick him up, so unable was I to take the bad news.  Yes, Bill confirmed.  Not good. Pushing and shoving other kids. General rude behavior. I am still waiting for the owner to call me back and let me know if he can return. I am not sure he should.  Seasons come and go. Sigh.

And so here we are. Zodo's Bowling and Beyond Youth League. We survived the second day and will go back for a third round.   I did learn one thing. I cannot coach my son (yikes, I AM bossy). I am OK with that. I think he is MORE than OK with that.  If bowling doesn't stick, I am not sure what to do....I suppose there is violin, piano, gymnastics....I try to tell myself that Bill Gates and Michael Dell probably did not have many other interests outside of computers.  Wish I could find him a web design class...


Rebecca Royce said...

We actually have a hard time finding activities for Austin. Mostly, he does well in Individual activities that don't require him to participate with a team. Finbar does ski really, really well. I know thats not easy considering the sun and the beach but you know he likes that. What about golf? Or Tennis? Also, around us the Apple Store gives Computer lessons to kids. At Soccer, Austin spends most of his time staring up at the sky or down at the grass. Its not a pretty sight. But they tell me that in his after school club at school (we do computers and leggos) that he does quite well. Its so hard! I think, in general, if you have a kid who is not athletically inclined early activities are not pleasant at all.

Al Pappalardo, Jr. said...

Both my boys are in the Scouts they started in the first grade and continue to enjoy the experiences. The cub scouts will require a parent to be there at all times so you don't have to worry about other kids bullying in fact the leaders are trained on how to handle bullying. (Trust me I know, Sal volunteered me to be a den leader and after climbing the ranks it's been rewarding.) We have had two boys’ with high functioning aspergers in our group. Book smart but both with social issues - one high strung the other very introverted. I have watched both of these boys for the past six years and the turnaround while not immediate has been profound. The one prone to social outburst takes direction well (still talks out of turn and needs to be reminded to quiet down). The other still has trouble keeping eye contact in conversations but can get up in front of 65 other scouts and make a presentation. Something I thought he would never accomplish. The activities are diverse and those that like camping can camp, others can do sports, still others can do science activities and some like to build things like pinewood race cars, and boats. The scouts are very accommodating especially with special needs and scouts can truly go at their own pace. I highly doubt you will ever be kicked out as long as you keep trying. If you have any questions call me, Cousin Al, Jr.

Grimace said...

Yeah sis....this might not be the autism. I think it is the (Ralph) Grimaldi gene. I hated being coached...Austin hates being coached and half way through any practice he starts reciting cartoons to himself (it's actualy quite funny and similar to stuff both Rebecca and I used to do). I used to yell back at the's who we are.

finbarsmom said...

Ahhhh yes, I love a good family chime in. nothing like hearing it from those you love.

Cousin Albert - YOU MADE MY DAY. THANK YOU FOR THE HOPE. Scouts around here I think start at age 7 and I think I am going to contact them now just to see what they are about. Finbar would definitely fall into the high strung talking out of turn category :0

Jefe, yes, it has in fact crossed my mind that I too hate being coached. Its why I love golf and yoga - solo sports. It took Bill (who loves acting like a coach to everyone) many years of me telling him that i do not respond to praise and encouragement like a Golden Retriever before he accepted that I was uncoachable as a wife :0 Yes, I would rather dig my own grave than be coached out of it. It IS who we are. Why should I expect any different from my kids huh? Good on Austin.