Sometimes I need to say that I am a damn lucky person. Today is one of those days. Bryan is doing well in middle school; he switched classes and his new teacher has that mushiness and love for the kids that we know works well for him. Although he needs lots of discipline and structure, when he feels welcomed and loved he thrives. Not rocket science, but happy to report it exists in our world. Bryan has been participating in Parkland Buddies Sports for about 5 years. This is a community based program where kids ages 10 and up volunteer to work with special needs children for a particular sport. When he started as a player he was very whiny and cried a lot. He did a time check literally every five minutes. We started with Soccer which he seemed to genuinely like, but he couldn’t focus and it was hot and he didn’t really know what was expected of him. Bryan is currently doing Flag Football Buddies and Running Buddies. He has also done Soccer, Tennis, and Basketball. We do as many as our schedule permits. It’s funny but the actual sport that is played seems to be the least important thing.
Here are a few things I love about this program:
- Acceptance: there are kids there who scream, flap, cry, hit, bite, etc. No one even flinches. Yay!
- Awareness: many of the kids that are volunteers in the program have had little or no contact with any form of special needs kids. Or if they did, it was at school, at a distance, not in their faces. They learn that just because a kid has some issues, they are still kids and can be fun and a friend.
- Fun: the kids have fun. The coaches and the players high-five each other. Bryan will come by and show me his thumbs up or will be giggling at times.
- Friendship: One of my favorite things is to watch the kids grow from year to year. When Bryan first started with Soccer he was a little kid, about 8. He had the same buddy for four years until his buddy graduated from High School. When they started they were both kind of small. Last year at Soccer they were both big hunky boys. Yumminess. I love to see Bryan running on the field, just a little sweat on his top lip and hairline. So typical, so natural, so healthy.
- Laughter: there is laughter at these events. The coaches doing silly stretches to current music that I find annoying, catchy, and too loud all at the same time. Ok I like Justin Bieber and Big Time Rush. (don’t tell anyone). Everyone just gets loose and the energy is electric!
- Support: I cannot count the number of times I have come to one of these events in tears. Sometimes it is sleep deprivation on top of frustration on top of perseveration blah blah blah. I never leave in tears. There is always someone there to give you a hug, provide empathy, or give you a super good suggestion. It’s a safe haven for parents.
- Coaches: These people take so much time out of their lives to run these programs and show up week after week. Many of them do not have special needs kids and do this because it’s good for their hearts. Others have special needs kids but rather than sitting on the sidelines they want to help other kids too. How selfless and inspirational!
Bryan has great hand-eye coordination. He can connect with a soccer ball, baseball, and catch a football. Does he care? Nope, but he does care that someone on the field thinks he did a great job. Last week one of our coaches told him he did “exceptional”. He did not know what that word meant. So we told him it means he did great. He offered up his typical “I did a great job at football.” All smiles… touchdown!!