It’s called a spectrum because it is just that — a spectrum of autism, which presents differently for each child.

One way Joseph presents is with very little interest in very many things. It’s hard to engage with him in an activity, simply because he doesn’t care about it. It’s challenging, not just for Blue Eyes and me, but also for Joseph’s teachers, peers, respite workers, and RDI consultant.

When Joseph started first grade this year, we worried about recess. Whatever would Joseph do out there on the blacktop if he doesn’t care to play ball or play chase or engage in the myriad of other games that kids so easily play?

But behold, a miracle hath taken place on the blacktop. A couple of weeks ago, Joseph got in line to throw a ball at the basketball hoop. The next day, he secured a basketball and started throwing one at his own hoop. Then he shared the ball with another kid and they took turns doing it.

Joseph came home talking about basketball. A few days later, Blue  Eyes and Joseph came home with a basketball hoop, and they spent hours assembling it. Together. It was the first time Blue Eyes had ever seen Joseph stay attentive to a task for such a long time — and perhaps it’s the first time it ever happened.

Joseph allowed Blue Eyes to show him how to do things, like turn screws, and then he did it himself. This is a very basic skill: being an apprentice to someone. Blue Eyes has mourned that he and Joseph haven’t had this relationship.

When the thing was standing upright — oh my, that’s when the fun began. All of a sudden we had something enjoyable that we could do with him. Joseph said, “I want to play basketball. C’mon, Dad! C’mon, Mom!” And away we went.

So very many other things have been about dragging a reluctant kid into an activity: board games, kicking a ball around, playing catch, shooting water guns, going for walks, listening to music, watching a movie, going on adventures…Shall I continue, or have I made my point?

Yesterday I met with John from RDI, and spoke to him about the new development. He handed me the ball and showed me many ways that I can utilize RDI interventions as Joseph and I play. If I want to pass the ball to Joseph, for example, I don’t throw it to him right where he is. I look to another point and gesture there with the ball. Joseph needs to read my facial expressions and gestures to know where to go. It’s brilliant.

As it turns out, there is a basketball team for special needs kids locally. Joseph works hard all day with typically-functioning kids, and I think it’d be great for him to be with his tribe on a regular basis. It ranges from almost typical kids to severely impaired, and the kids are all very kind with each other. Come the new year, we’ll be there.

It’s a small thing, playing basketball, but it’s a giant leap for our family. When you deal with autism, a little thing like this can go a long, long way.

Advertisements