For the Love of Sports

What do you get when you give a boy with autism the opportunity to play sports? Optimism!

My son Kyle has been a sports fan, I would say since way back in the womb. I think he wanted to play soccer for all the kicks I had to endure! One of Kyle's first words in his very limited vocabulary as a child was- wait for it- hockey! It was the first word he learned to spell. His Dad had to cut down a hockey stick to fit his short stature and we lost a few vases but c'est la vie.

Flash forward to when Kyle was in his last year of a life skills program in high school. He was being prepared for the real world. They call it mainstreaming or transitioning into society. We all knew his graduation was going to be bitter sweet. It's a sad thing for some special needs students when their whole world is school staff, classmates and a safe environment. There isn't too many possibilities to look forward to in their post high school future. The fortunate can fit into an adult life skills or work training program but not all services and classes are available for all abilities. There's lots of fear, uncertainty and worst of all alienation.

Kyle is one of the lucky ones. He is very verbal and enjoys socializing. He loves physical activities, likes to be busy and he can be trained to do jobs with some supervision. Did I mention he loves sports? In preparation for Kyle's transition from high school to the real world we signed him up for a Support Worker with the VON. It was touch and go with a few candidates. Some didn't want to commit and some just didn't fit. Then there was Ian. Our VON coordinator said he was perfect for Kyle and guess what, he was all that and a bag of chips, as Kyle would say! Ian was in teacher's college and looking forward to coaching and teaching phys. ed. plus he was interested in the field of special needs. Well, as you can imagine the two guys got on like a house on fire! The one thing we all noticed was there was no communication gap between the two guys. Ian and Kyle participated in typical stuff like hanging out with Ian's friends, going to the movies, Tim Hortons, ball games, bowling, tennis, mini golf, horse racing, and billiards - just to name a few. Ian was a regular part of Kyle's life for the better part of two years but then Ian had to go and get a job, (bleep)! Actually, we were all very proud to hear that he started teaching high school in his home town. Unfortunately, it's an hour and a bit away but the guys still keep in touch through Facebook. I think the students in Ian's classes are a very privileged bunch to have him for a teacher even if they don't know it yet. Ian is also a sports writer for the Chatham-Kent Daily Post. He's written an awesome article about Kyle and how he was influenced by his unique view of sports. Kyle rarely keeps score, he's been known to root for both teams and it's high fives all around when a bowling buddy gets a strike! For Kyle it's all about the love of the game. That old adage, "It's not whether you win or lose, it's how you play the game" really does apply here. Kyle would tell you that word for word and actually believe it too.

To see Ian's article click the blog title or go here:


Ian Kennedy said...

Great article Wanda. Thanks for everything.
- Ian

Pete S. said...

Great story.
My son has Aspergers and he is 6.
He plays little league and today was an awesome day.
He made 3 great plays on the field and smashed the ball every time up.
Sports is great for all children, spectrum or not.

Jen said...

SO glad to read this post, and be introduced to your blog! I have a 9 yr old with Aspergers, she was dx in May (we actually didnt suspect it, but knew she had lots of sensory issues and motor skill delays). My blog is primarily about experiences we have as mother and daughter, or as a family, related to her. I am just trying to understand how her brain works, and sharing the stories with others is helping me get great input from parents and women who are themselves on the spectrum. Reading blogs like yours is inspiring and informative, will be following you. If you get a minute, come check out my blog, and I will be looking at the A-N social network that you have a button for on the sidebar too. Have a great week!


Crystal said...

Great entry! :)

Kristine said...

Hi! I love your autism optimism graphic...may I use it on my website? My son was diagnosed with PDD-NOS today, and I want to have something positive on my website for folks to see as soon as they open the page. I have another graphic there now, and I'd like to replace it with yours, and I will give you credit, of course. Take a look!
Thanks so much!

Wanda Lynne Young said...

Thanks for your wonderful feedback! Today is my son's 23rd birthday! I can make you a similar graphic with your blog title if you wish. You can follow my blog and find me on Facebook. I'm also on Twitter under Wanda Lynne Young and Autism Optimism. Cheers,