Saturday, February 23, 2008

Beware the Rattlers...

Little League started today.

This simple statement could be taken as a token description of this morning's activities. Or, alternatively, it could be viewed in the much broader sense of marking a milestone in my sons' development.

That's right, Little League started today .... for both of my older sons.

You see, a few years ago the thought that my son could participate in an activity like this seemed pretty far-fetched. Jason had been diagnosed with "classic autism", and I quickly divested myself of the idea that his childhood development was going to follow predictable, typical paths.
Well, to make a long story short, Jason has exceeded many of the expectations that were placed on him in the short years immediately following his diagnosis, and at age 6 is now playing tee ball.

So here's how it all came about.

First, my Dad (my parents live very near to us for most of the year and are very good at keeping a finger on the pulse of the community and letting us know what opportunities are out there for the kids) caught wind that Little League sign-ups were coming soon and passed the info on to me.
I was hopeful but realistic about Jason's chances to play out the season on a team of his peers, but was heartened by the idea that Tyler (14 months younger) could be on the same team. Jason and Tyler resonate well together, despite their differences. My folks refer to their constant bickering as resembling two little old men who love each other dearly but get underneath each other's skin, which is a pretty good analogy. Think Odd Couple. Or Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure.
So when I went to sign up last month, I just decided to talk honestly with the head organizer about Jason and his opportunity to participate. He initially recommended the Challenger League, which is specifically for players with disabilities, but I was enthusiastic that, especially with his brother on the same team, Jason would be up to the task. We reached an agreement to at least give it a try, and signed up.
Now, Jason is a member of the Rattlers. Though the Teal and White uniforms may not strike fear into the hearts of opponents, the kids sure are proud to wear them. The coach is a friend of ours who has known Jason for a few years and really understands and relates well to him. The coach's son is a friend of Jason's. My father, a former Little League coach himself, is an assistant coach, as am I. My wife is sharing duties as "Team Mom". My Mom will be official cheerleader and photographer. Tyler will be Jason's on-field supporter and taskmaster (until he gets distracted by a passing bumblebee). In all, I think we have a network of support that ensures the highest likelihood of success.
And, you know what? If it doesn't work out, that's OK. Furthermore, if Jason decides after some time of playing that baseball is not for him, that's OK, too. I'm certainly not one of those rabid sports parents who lives vicariously through my kids' athletic (or other categories of) prowess.
Dammit, I just want Jason to get a crack at this, at having the opportunity to bond with his teammates and experience the feeling of winning or losing a game in which he gave it his all.

The Rattlers!
We may swing the bat at the wrong object from time to time.
We may be more likely to catch a cold than the ball.
We may not throw very straight.
Or far.
Or in the right direction.
But we've got heart!
And we're here to play ball!
Go Rattlers!


Niksmom said...

This is so wonderful and heartwarming to read! I can't wait to read more about the exploits of both your "Rattlers!"

You know, those rattlers are funny...just when you think they're asleep...STRIKE! They surprise their victims. I'm just never know what could happen in those teal and white uniforms. :-)


Club 166 said...

Good for all of you!

Hope Jason and Tyler have a lot of fun on the team.


leila said...

Hi Steve, I'm curious to see how Jason will do in this activity. My autistic son is 4 and I do believe that he'll be able to participate in some kind of team sport 2 years from now.

On a different subject, I read that you like Horton Hears a Who. Are you going to take Jason to see the new movie? Do you think a child that can't really understand the plot might also be able to enjoy the movie?

Thank you...

leila said...

Clarification: when I asked about the child not following the plot I was referring to my son. : ) He is a very good reader but he has trouble with auditory processing and paying attention to spoken language. I keep waiting for an "easy" movie to come out so I can give him a great first experience in the theatre, but there hasn't been any good toddler-targeted flick coming out lately.

Navi said...

Leila, my 5 yr old did well in movies with visuals he liked. whether he understood them, I have no clue. He's big on cgi animation - so veggietales, pixar, etc

and on little league, congrats, and good luck, and I'm envious. my son's no where near able to participate in a sport, at 5 (though we did play a little ski ball together, hand over hand - I'm a better shot helping him than I am on my own). Of course, just before I typed this he was sitting across my lap (but not squishing his sleeping sister), holding my head close to his and hugging me and putting my face to his cheek for a kiss repeatedly, and I forgot about being envious of anything...

Steve D said...

Thanks to all of you for your nice comments. I always appreciate the words of encouragement and support. Someday Jason will read this blog and have lots of positive things to look back on.
Leila - I actually didn't know that movie was coming out, so thanks for the tip. I'd love for the kids to see it.
Jason has not yet successfully sat through a movie in the theatre. The sound is just too much for him - he covers his ears the moment the lights go down. But he consistently gets better at dealing with his sensory issues, so maybe that move will be the trick for him.
Jason also had/has the same issue with auditory processing - he is a visual learner/attender to be sure. Still, he gets wrapped up in movies (at home) for his own reasons, and over time picks up the story in great detail - just not on the first look.
Navi - All of us parents should envy all the others for our kids. God knows they all bring us gifts we would never even understand without having experienced them firsthand.

leila said...

Steve, my son is not too sensitive to loud noises, but he sometimes gets scared with some of the scenes, even at home. He is freaked out by The Incredibles video for instance, and any superhero-type cartoon on TV. One of the first movies he's even seen in a theatre was The Polar Express and he was terrified (he finally closed his eyes and fell asleep). On the other hand, he loves The Land Before Time, even the scene where T-Rex is trying to eat the baby dinosaurs. So it's hard to tell what he's going to like! I think I'm going to ask his ABA team to start showing him clips of the Horton movie to familiarize him and "prep" him before seeing the whole film in the theatre.