A family's story

Posts tagged ‘Proud Momma’

There was Joy in Muddville

A little over three years ago, I registered Tate for baseball. Regular, coach-pitch little league baseball, to be exact. Many of our friends and fellow parents encouraged it. “It will be good for him,” they said. “It will channel that energy,” they said. “He just needs something to focus on,” they said. 

Two months after registering Tate for baseball, we sat in his neuropsychologist’s office as she detailed all the ways that the testing and interviews indicated that Tate was autistic. I asked about school. I asked about academics. I asked about OT, PT, speech, and inquired about ABA. Hubz asked about sports…did she think it was a good idea. She said that sometimes sports can be very good for kids like Tate.

We let it rest. We finished out the school year and put our energies into other things…finding an ABA team, fighting insurance, trying to get some sleep. Suddenly, we got Tate’s baseball team assignment. Oh…. I contacted his coach, the fabulous Mrs. B, and gave her the run-down of our situation. I explained that he was autistic, and asked if it would be better not to participate. The fabulous Mrs. B told us that she was a special education teacher (before she took some time off to be home with her children), and that she’d love to work with Tate.

By the grace of God, we had the fabulous Mrs. B. She was essentially Tate’s buddy during the baseball season. She went up to bat with him. She stood with him at the various positions in the infield and outfield. She was, essentially, turning the experience into “Buddy Baseball”. 

There was no joy in Muddville, however, for us that season. Tate struggled to maintain focus during the game. (Have you ever seen a child at bat who could not, COULD NOT, watch the ball?!) He did not interact with the peers on the team much at all..he sat on the bench and stimmed with sticks and played with his water bottle. Often, I would sit in the dugout with him. Several times we left the game after an inning of play (they usually played 3 innings). Most of his communication was via whining or echolalia. It was not a fun experience, and he begged off of going to the final game and after party. We obliged. It was simply too much.

Our area simply did not have baseball available to children with special needs. We enrolled Tate in VIP soccer through a local AYSO. He has done really well with that soccer program. He enjoys running up and down the field, interacting with his peers, and scoring goals. He does pretty well, too.

This past January I saw an announcement from our local baseball association. They were starting a Challenger Division for children with special needs. Anyone ages 4-18, who had special needs could join. I was super excited. I posted about it on Facebook. I signed him up the first chance I got! Amazingly, through the generosity of some local business sponsors, the organization offered the first season of Challenger Division baseball to the participants FREE OF CHARGE! Now, I would have gladly paid the typical fee for baseball, especially for Challenger Division, but I was floored by the free offering. It made me feel like they really wanted to make this happen for kids like Tate.

There was a smallish-group of parents who registered their children for the league. Emails started to trickle in from the organizer of the Challenger Division. The excitement that he had for this division was amazing. He was so INTO it. He encouraged us to ask others to join the fun. Within a few weeks, they had enough participants for 4 teams. That was fantastic!

We started to talk to Tate about baseball. He was excited to play it. He kept asking about “the fabulous Mrs. B”. (Memory like an elephant, I tell ya!) I told him that she wouldn’t be coaching, but that a dad of a boy who rides his bus would be. He seemed okay with that. The brother of one of Jake’s cub scout friends signed up to be Tate’s “buddy”. We were on a roll.

The first day of Challenger baseball was a dreary, rainy Sunday. Tate was quite excited about it, though. Instead of the usual insistence that we not go somewhere new, he was totally on board. Even when we got to the facility where they were going to practice, and it was loud and had weird lighting, Tate handled it like a pro. He took to his buddy immediately. He responded to the coaching. He didn’t search me out or refuse to leave my side. He threw me his water bottle and told me to go sit with the other parents!! 

Tate did increasingly better with each practice. He was fielding the ball okay, able to pay attention and throw in the direction that his buddy instructed him to do. He was hitting the coach-pitched ball when he tried. He was crushing it off of the tee. He also can throw!! Wowsers!! (Hubz is super excited that our LEFTY is showing such promise with that throwing arm…ha ha.)

This past Sunday was “Opening Day”. As part of the kick-off of the inaugural season of Challenger Division Baseball, the baseball organization had people singing the National Anthem, announcing the game, and then provided free hot dogs, chips, and drinks for all players, buddies, and their families afterwards! The local Culvers provided vanilla and chocolate custard, and the fire department had a fire truck and 3 firemen there for some fun, too.

I was worried that it might be too much for Tate. I was worried that he would melt down and freak out. Then, when his buddy couldn’t make it to our game because of a prior commitment, I was like, oh, he’s going to be toast. But, nope, he did a fantastic job!!

Tate played in the field and stood exactly where he was supposed to stand. He passed the ball around the bases like he was instructed. When he got up to bat, he hit the coach-pitched ball and it went a decent distance…and he hit it all by himself, without anyone helping him!!!! The smile beaming from his face as he ran towards first base each time was priceless. Even if future games go to hell in a handbasket, we will have THAT to remember for ever and always.

So, my friends, there was much joy in Muddville, as Mighty Tate did NOT strike out at the bat….he participated in his game, hit the ball, TALKED to his teammates, and even joked with a few of them. 

The moral of my story is this….to any of the people who don’t think that there’s a special something about special needs sports…well, I dare you to hold onto that belief after watching one of our baseball games. Or one of Tate’s soccer games. We, as parents, get to witness a little miracle on the field each and every week….and sometimes that miracle is that our kiddo is able to just get ONTO the field…and we’ll take it. 

 

 

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Welcome, Eight!!

Tate is eight! On this day in 2006 I went to a routine doctor’s appointment. Little did I know that I was in full-blown labor. Taters came into this world 3 weeks and 1 day early. He has always been on his own timeline…and he has taught me so much about trusting my instincts and trying not to compare us with everyone else.

Tate is an amazingly strong child. He endures struggles and difficulties with aplomb and charm. He keeps plugging along, even when it isn’t easy. He really is an inspiration. He also has such a zest for life and is so passionate about so many things. I wish we all could laugh as heartily as he does and dance and enjoy music like we didn’t care who was watching like he does. He marches to the beat of his own drum, and it is going to serve him well in this world.

Happy Birthday, my sweet, sweet boy. I love you to the moon and back and then some….

Now I shall inundate you with photos of his 8 years….he’s pretty darn adorable, if I do say so myself…and he exudes joy. Just look….

A snowman with Jake

My water obsession in early 2010

watching tv 2008

Watching TV in a box…to define my space and help me feel secure in February 2008

our boys

Welcome home, Cole!!!

On the day that I was born…I tried to block out the bright lights from my mom’s room…

2nd Birthday with monkey quilt from Grandma

Doing a little sensory seeking on my 1st birthday

Seven was a great year…with Doc McStuffins

Playdoh on my 6th birthday

I’m gonna rock you like a hurricane

Playing with crayons and markers in 2008

My 2nd birthday was a ton of fun

I'm three!

Turning three was a happy day

EndofJuly-EarlyAugust07010

When I used to eat varied foods…in 2007

easter 11

Decorating Easter cookies on my 5th birthday

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A sense of wonder

bros

Jake and Tate

August08012

Do I need to turn this car around?

Napping on the fly…

4th bday nate

Tate and me on his birthday

4 years old

Opening presents on my 4th birthday

Heading to 3 year old Early Childhood Preschool

Tate’s Big Day

Last fall I wrote a post regarding my struggle with the fact that Tate wouldn’t make his First Communion with his class. I was a little sad, and a little disappointed. I spoke way too soon.

This year we have seen tremendous growth. Tate’s language skills have really blossomed. He is much more involved in the actions and surroundings around him. He has developed some astounding coping skills. We have our bad days, weeks, and stretches, as does anyone, but overall, our kiddo has made some impressive strides. I dare say, he has really come into his own.

Along with all of this glorious progress, we have noticed that during Mass, Tate is much more aware of the routine. He follows along, and knows when to sit, stand and kneel. Whether he joins us all is another thing, but you’d better believe he tells me when it’s time to do each action. He knows when we sing. He knows when we pray. He knows when we make the sign of the cross and say “Amen”. He also knows when he needs a break from all of the action, which is so huge, that I really don’t need to say it. He will say, “I need to go to the playroom” or “I need a drink”. If we ask him if he wants to go for a walk, he will let us know if he does. Again, super-duper huge.

He is also an active participant in our church’s special religious development class. (SPRED) In that class, which meets every other week, they meet with a one-on-one catechist (someone who leads them in our faith). They read a passage from the Bible. They talk about a good thing from their week. They do special activities. They sing. They dance. They share a meal. It is fantastic.

About a month and a half ago, I asked his catechist about a timeframe for Tate’s First Communion. I know that the SPRED children often don’t follow the same timeline as the “typical” classes do. I mentioned how Tate is making a rough sign of the cross, how he follows along in Mass, how he keeps asking if he’ll be making his First Communion because he’s going to be 8. His catechist called the next day, saying that between my report of his progress in his faith at home, and what growth they’ve seen in SPRED, that they felt he was ready for First Communion.

I was ecstatic. Again, Tate has proved that he should not be discounted. That he should not be marginalized. He is right there with his peer-age group. In fact, he made his First Communion before other 2nd graders!!!  He was so proud. The smile on his face when we told him that he was going to make his First Communion, oh, how I wish I could capture it on film. It lit up his whole face. Even his eyes and ears and nose were smiling. For him, for us, it was magical.

This past Sunday was his big day. We had practiced how he should hold his hands. We had practiced what he should say when the priest said, “The body of Christ.” We had practiced how he should make the sign of the cross. He was as ready as he could be.

Sunday morning we had a special breakfast of cinnamon rolls and lemonade. Well, at least the boys did. They all showered and put on their Easter best. Tate willingly put on a collared, button-up shirt and a tie. A TIE!! He wore pants that had a button and a zipper. He wore dress shoes. He knew it was “only for an hour”, and then he could wear his comfy clothes. He also knew his clothes were special.

We got to church and our entire family was there to celebrate with him. His godparents were there. His grandparents. His cousins. His aunts and uncles. Everyone was ready to support Tate in his growth in his faith. It was spectacular, and caused this momma to tear up, just a wee bit. He struggled a little with all of the attention. He was a bit anxious, and ripped off his name tag. Once our family was seated, Tate and I went back into the gathering space of the church. We stood with his fellow communicant (another child from his group was making his First Communion, too) and with his catechist. He looked for some sensory input by pressing his chin into my arm. After two squishes, he said he was okay. I told him I was going to go sit in the church, and he said, “Bye, Mommy. See you later.” And that was that.

He walked into church with the rest of his SPRED group. He sat quite well with his catechist during an ENTIRE Mass. It was an hour. And he sat the entire time. Without needing any escapes out to the gathering space. HUGE!!! He danced with his whole body when the SPRED group sang the Responsorial Psalm. He just exuded happiness.

When it was time for his First Communion, they called Hubz and me up to the altar with him. We stood around the altar with Tate, his catechist, and the other boy and his family. Our priest talked about how wonderful it was to see Tate and the other boy grow in their faith. He applauded us and the other parents for continuing to help our children grow in our faith. It was all I could do to not ugly cry up there. I was so proud. My chest was bursting.

Tate took Communion like he’d been doing it for years. He was calm. He wasn’t overly fidgety. I wasn’t chasing him around the altar or worried about him knocking over candles. He was phenomenal. He was ready. So ready. He made his First Communion and calmly went back to his seat with his catechist. Hubz and I were beaming with pride. Our kiddo…the one who has struggled greatly in all things, did it. He not only did it, he did it well.

I couldn’t be more proud of my son. He constantly works and tries and overcomes. He proves to us over and over again how much he is capable of doing. I am blessed to be his mom.

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Tate in his comfy clothes. “You know you live in the Midwest when…” your kiddo puts on shorts when it’s 58 degrees outside.

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Tate’s cake…made by Hubz’s mom. Awesome, right?

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Tate and his grandparents

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Tate and his godparents

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Tate and me

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About as good of a family photo as we’re going to get.

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A dapper Tate…stimming with a plastic knife because, well, why not?

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