Today I overheard one mom tell another mom about the difficult girl on her daughter's softball team - a group of 3rd graders. She described the way she never paid attention to the game, how she wrote in the dirt, made mud and played in it, couldn't follow directions. She head butted other girls when they were in their batting helmets, etc... Her main complaint was that it was an annoyance to the team, she couldn't believe that this girl's mom didn't intervene. From her perspective, the mom didn't seem to notice a bit. She commented that she must be a "nightmare" in the classroom. She said, with a mixed degree of relief and smugness, that next year the team is based on skill and she's sure THAT girl won't be moving up.
I kept quiet. I didn't know what to say. But inside, I had plenty of things to say to myself.
First of all, this girl needs help. I hope that her mother really isn't as oblivious as observed. Those behaviors are obviously NOT typical of 3rd graders. Life is going to keep getting more difficult, I am a huge believer in early intervention. I hurt for her, thinking of the many who watch her on the field and don't understand. I hurt for the mother they blame.
I've considered the dilemma of group sports for these very reasons. Swimming would be incredibly therapeutic for Carver, but a group lesson situation would be... um, difficult. He'd have a hard time following directions, need more attention than other kids and their parents would be resentful. How would I feel in a similar situation? Like I'd paid a lot for a class and expected to have equal attention from a teacher. Private lessons would be ideal, but terribly expensive and out of the question for us right now. Soccer? He'd love a turn to play, but again the interactions would be stressful to him, it would be so hard. But on the other hand, when he's ready, a team experience would be wonderful for him, physical activity tremendously helpful.
I realize not everyone has first hand experience with developmental delays and disabilities. They don't understand the balance between concern for everyone else's convenience and our children's need for integration and experience. I get that. I am incredibly grateful that my girls will have understanding of disabilities and, hopefully, grow up with compassion for others around them. It's certainly difficult to have Carver as a brother and they aren't usually saintly about it. But I hope that as they mature, what'll stay with them is that they love him anyway and that they are willing to be on his team and anyone else's who needs a cheering section.