Monday, February 11, 2013

Soccer, Take 1

So, we decided to sign Ethan up for a six-week indoor soccer course offered by our town.

I'm not quite sure why. Ethan's never played soccer, never talked about playing soccer, and has yet to understand the rules of the game. But he does seem to like playing anything that involves a ball.

Originally we had him in a 3-5-year old class, but that was cancelled due to lack of participants, so he was bumped to the 4-6 year olds. This made me just slightly apprehensive. I knew some of these kids might already have played soccer. Ethan most certainly had not.

We arrived at the gym in the community center last week right on time. Snow was coming down outside. The first thing Ethan noticed were the basketball hoops. As the "coach" (a guy about 20 years old) had them all run out to start kicking the soccer balls around, Ethan immediately picked up a ball and begin trying to shoot baskets. Darn. I'd forgotten how much he likes basketball.

"Hey, buddy!" the guy called. "You can't touch the ball. Kick it." I realized that while I had marked on the sign up form that Ethan has "mild autism," I hadn't had the usual chat beforehand with the instructor to give a heads-up. Oh well. There was no time now. He was already out there, running around the gym with the kids.

Thankfully Ethan put down the ball after a few minutes and started kicking it around. This would become a trend for the hour: Ethan doing his own thing, then looking up a few minutes later and seeing what everyone else was doing and attempting as best as he could to copy.

As I watched, it was hard not to feel conflicted. Never before had I seen played out before me so clearly what it means for a child to have "processing challenges." I'm not sure exactly what goes on in Ethan's mind, but I think it's something along the lines of this: he's got so much to take in around him. There's the squeak of the gym floor, the sounds of the other kids, the allure of the basketball nets. Everything is maybe bigger or louder or more pronounced than for the average person. It's harder for him to filter out what's not important; to multi-task and switch quickly from one activity to another. Add to that a guy talking quickly halfway across the gym, giving instructions about things to do with your body, and using all sorts of slang terms (like "bring it in!" for when he wanted them to come to him with the soccer balls), and Ethan seemed to always be about two minutes behind. He'd finally get what he was supposed to be doing, and they'd have moved on to the next step.

However, he was having fun. I had to leave for awhile with Anna to do an errand (Dan stayed behind) and when we came back, the kids were involved in a "game" of sorts. I'm not sure if Ethan knew which net he was supposed to be kicking the ball into, but he was in the middle of the horde of kids, racing, sweating, laughing...never quite getting the ball, but having fun trying.

When everything was over, we asked him how he liked soccer.

"I wanted to go to BASKETBALL practice, not soccer," he said, although he didn't seem all that upset. I told him they didn't have basketball practice. You better believe I'm going to find out if they are going to.

All of this left me thinking about why we do the things we do. Was I signing Ethan up for soccer for me, or for him? At what point do we decide to either have him play along with typical kids and struggle a bit or find a program for kids with special needs? How much does all of this matter, as long as he's having fun at whatever he's doing?

The next class is tomorrow. Stay tuned.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.