For those of you who read my blog, you know that I have a fantastic wife and 2 great kids. I've done a few posts about how cute Emery is, and one about Ethan's basketball team. Ethan loves to play and gives it all he has every game and practice. Tonight, Ethan had a tough time at practice. Due to a misprint in schedule, Ethan and Mom arrived at practice 45 minutes early. Usually, there are two practice shifts. Ethan usually practices from 6:45 to 7:30pm. Tonight's schedule said all teams start at 6pm. When they found out that Ethan's coach wasn't there, Ethan joined another team to run through drills. This is when the trouble started.
Ethan has Asperger's Syndrome. It is on the Autism Spectrum. He has trouble adjusting to changes and transitions. He takes things literally. Direct eye contact bothers him. His ears are extra sensitive to loud unexpected noises. Otherwise, he is a very caring, bright, enthusiastic eight year old. Most people don't realize he is different unless they spend a lot time with him.
The practice started off bad. He was in an unfamiliar gym, with kids and coaches he didn't know, and who didn't know him. There was more noise with the extra kids and the coaches were all blowing whistles. The coaches ran new drills that he tried to understand. Asperger's kids are visual learners. Many times, verbal teaching blends in with the other distracting noises and causes a sensory overload. He was trying to learn by watching the other kids. The new coaches didn't know this and did their best to help Ethan to understand. But everything was too new and overwhelming for Ethan. He tried hard but eventually got exhausted and frustrated and ran crying to Mom.
Don't worry, this story does have a happy ending. Ethan's regular coach showed up at the regular time to start his practice. Once Ethan was with his own team, he could calm down and focus on what was being asked of him.
One of the frustrating things about Asperger's Syndrome is, that simple things like noise, transitions, and communication differences, can completely disrupt a person's thought processes. These disruptions may cause the child to throw a fit or over-react. Unfortunately, the child or parents are often judged for the behavior of this seemingly normal child. For normal people, these disruptions are not bothersome enough to affect their behavior. Also, most people instinctively know how to interact with peers and react to various social cues.
Asperger's kids struggle with these situations and need to be taught and learn what we take for granted. We don't want to shelter Ethan and limit all social interaction with his peers. We want him to experience friendships and personal pride as much as he can. He does have some very good friends, and for that we are thankful. We only try to limit certain conditions that may make his interactions more difficult. All we ask is a little patience for the kid who may not be "fitting in". It's not his fault. He's just learning.