I’m really struggling with this one, and since I have a place to put my thoughts down, let’s go.
The gap is closing between what Jake can do and what his peers can do. Simultaneously, it’s getting bigger by the minute.
Jake wants to play basketball. We had started some talk about him joining a unified team in a nearby town where neurotypical kids would play along side kids with needs. This seemed like the perfect compromise, but the more I think about it, it’s not going to work. Jake doesn’t want to play for some other team in some other town. He wants to put on a Wolverines jersey and play in his high school in front of his town. He wants to be part of something. He wants to succeed. He wants to be the hero that makes the three-pointers and go to the tournaments in Bangor.
I don’t think what he wants is possible.
Here’s the problem. He thinks he can play basketball based on bad information. He’s a pretty good shot when he’s playing knock-out in the driveway or during gym class. He spends much of his PE time working on making half court shots. He’s pretty darn good at NBA 2k15 on Wii U. None of this translates into actual skill or ability on the hardwood. Jake has never played a corporate game of basketball in his life. He’s never done a team sport. He’s never done peewees or rec ball. When he was age-appropriate for these things, he wasn’t developmentally able. He lacks the discipline needed for practices. He gets nervous when people watch him. He simply lacks the basic understanding of how to play the game, and I wonder if he can pick it up.
So, the crux of the problem – let him try out or not? In thinking long and hard about my thinking, I have to ask out loud if I’m more worried about my own feelings or his. Will he be more embarrassed when he can’t keep up with the rest of the team, or will I? Our town (and high school) is pretty small, and Jake is a generally beloved kid. He may make the team based solely on the fact that 1) he’s a good kid, 2) nobody wants to be pegged as discriminating against the autistic kid, and 3) he’s my son.
Scenario 1: Jake tries out and doesn’t make the team.
Scenario 2: Jake tries out, and because he’s Jake and the coach feels compassion, he makes the team, but never gets off the bench.
Scenario 3: Jake tries out, makes the team, and gets put in only if and when the team is 30 points up and makes a fool out of himself, gets crushed, and gets turned off to all sports and new things.
Scenario 4: Jake tries out, makes the team, does really well against all odds, and feels the deep satisfaction that comes from overcoming your fears and realizing your potential.
Or, more selfishly, Scenario 3a: Jake makes the team, embarrasses himself, and I feel the stares of the crowd as people roll their eyes at me for allowing him to be in a position to fail so publicly.
Which is best case scenario? Which is worst?
Will it be enough for him to join a team, practice with peers, work hard toward a common goal, and suit-up with his compatriots on the bench? I don’t know. Furthermore, are these feelings every parent has every time their kid does something they can’t control, and I’m just overthinking it because Jake’s my baby and isn’t “normal”? Every time any of my kids are on stage, whether to sing, play an instrument, do a back flip, or deliver a line in a play, my palms get sweaty and I hold my breath until they’re “safe” again. Doesn’t every dad? The difference is that our NT kids recognize that failure is part of the process, that you can’t win them all, and that in every competition, one team loses.
I tried to get him to consider asking to be manager of the team. He’d get to attend practices and join his team on the bench. He’s not interested. We asked him to consider his commitment to the pep band. He says the boys that play basketball only play their instruments during girls’ games. No biggie. I’m not sure Jake can handle it. I’m honestly not sure I can handle Jake not handling it. Which again begs the question, am I being selfish or protective? Or both?
We’re having a similar problem with the handful of his peers that are starting to get their driving permits. We can at least use the argument that kids become ready to drive at different ages, and that he’s just not there yet. I can’t put off him trying out for high school ball until he’s 25.
It’s September now, which means this is going to have to be determined pretty soon. Do I tell him he’s just not good enough, or let “life” do it for me? Makes me sick just thinking about it. What do I do?