Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Today Z started an indoor soccer program for people with special needs. It's a free program that his teacher e-mailed me about over the summer. Z wasn't overly enthused to give it a try but I figured at free the price was right. If he hated it we could just stop going and there would be nothing lost. As it turns out he loved it. A lot of kids from his school are in the program and the people running it are very understanding of everyone playing.

We got to the indoor soccer field early. A man with a clipboard was walking around and checking kids in, asking people if they were there for that particular program. I waited for him to approach us but he continued to go around us, even when I called out to him that I had a son who needed to be checked in, and even when there wasn't anyone else to be checked in. The man had a similar style and hairdo as Z and I think he was unable to see Z as a child with special needs. It was very interesting to me, and sort of reminded me of one of the hurdles Z is up against; people don't see him as a child with special needs so they don't allot any of the patience children with special needs often get.

I did eventually get Z checked in. Each child was assigned a volunteer that would work with them for the next 9 weeks of the session. The man who was randomly assigned to Z didn't seem like a good fit even from way over where I was watching in the bleachers. I couldn't even explain why now, I'm just generally able to see if someone is likely to relate to and earn the trust of my son. The guy didn't do a single thing wrong, but he just wasn't right. Miguel commented on it before I said anything. I was relieved to hear that the buddies the kids were working with that day were not permanent and had a sneaking suspicion that the guy with the clipboard that looked like Z in ten years would end up being Z's buddy. Sure enough, the next Thursday when we came I found Z kicking the ball around with Clipboard Guy. He seems to be a pretty good fit.

So far the soccer program has been great. I signed Z up for the social aspect, but the extra exercise he's getting hasn't been a bad thing. After the first day a boy stopped Z to see if Z wanted to come over to his house. Z's immediate reply was, "We're really busy." I knew that Z was interested in doing something with the boy so I corrected him and had him tell the boy that he wasn't able to come over that day but that they should exchange information so that maybe they could hang out in the future. While the boys were trying to figure out what information they had to share with each other the boy's mother walked up and apologized for her son bothering us. I told her he wasn't bothering us at all and filled her in on their budding friendship. My phone was dead so I had Miguel take his out so we could save the boy's phone number. The mom pulled out her phone and took down ours, but made a point of not telling us her number. Miguel and I both remarked on how awkward the exchange had been. It's been three weeks and we haven't heard from the boy or his mother.

The other child had told his mother that he wanted Z to come over to their house. In the awkwardness of the situation I wasn't able to explain that I was really more comfortable in meeting up somewhere where both the other mother and I could observe and help with the budding social skills. The mom remarked to her son that he couldn't just invite people over, he had to consult her. For whatever reason we were not deemed desireable play date material, which is too bad because the other child seemed very nice. Getting junior high school kids together is so hard when their parents are heavily involved. I'm glad I didn't have to get the approval of both myself and my dad when I was trying to make friends in junior high, because I'm not sure I would have ever gotten it.

The over-all indoor soccer experience has been great. Z played soccer when he was five and the entire incident makes me cringe still. He very rarely did what was expected and the coach was frazzled the whole time trying to deal with him. This time Z is one of the highest functioning kids in the entire organization. He regularly makes goals and easily masters what is asked of him. I get to give sympathetic looks to the mom of the kid who won't get up off of the field so the rest of the kids can play. I've never been in this position, and the best part of it all is that the mom of the kid laying across the field could care less, it's just what her kid does. On the day when Z randomly decided his leg hurt too much to play (even though he was running around before and after practice) I didn't really care. He sat talking to his buddy for most of the time instead and occasionally played, and I chalked up the whole thing as a success.

The only problem is that now Az wants to play soccer, and the league for her is definitely not free.

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