I think we’ve finally found the key to The Boy, and slowly we’re unlocking a serious breakthrough. The breakthrough comes with a hearty “Hi-YA!” and a karate kick in the face of Autism.
A little over a month ago, I called the local karate studio & spoke with the instructor of the class. I explained that The Boy had been diagnosed with Aspergers but we were in the middle of getting him re-assessed & aren’t certain it’s AS. We think he’s definitely somewhere on the spectrum, and thought that karate might be right up his alley. We tried gymnastics & soccer, too much waiting around, not enough discipline.
“We have a couple of guys here with Autism who are black belts now. Bring him in – we’ll run him through a trial and see if it’s a fit.” The Instructor said. I was careful not to get my hopes up. This program didn’t accept everyone.
That Saturday, we brought him to the studio. He was full of energy & a little unorganized, but he seemed to enjoy the physicality of karate, and he caught on to the routine pretty quickly. I loved the structure & discipline that this class offered, and it was only 30 minutes – perfect for my little guy with the short-attention span.
The Instructor was a tough guy. Just as The Boy began to act out & I hissed his name, The Instructor walked over to me and said “No, let me handle him. You just sit here and watch. He needs to know that I’m the boss here & if you’re doing the discipline in my studio, he won’t ever respect me.” Word. I was totally on board, but also on the edge of my seat, waiting to see how much of a spectacle this would turn into. To my delight, The Boy didn’t buck too much, just tested the waters a little, but I loved that The Instructor didn’t let him (or any of the other kids) get away with a single shenanigan!
The Instructor told us to bring The Boy back again to the next class. And again, and again, and again. The Boy was in try-outs for almost 3 weeks! He had to “earn” his “jacket.” That totally motivated him. He loved the challenge, he got the hang of things, (addressing his instructors as “Ma’am & Sir,” keeping his hands to himself, staying quiet & following directions – for the most part.) And although he struggled with controlling his body, he really made an effort. After 9 sessions, he had finally earned his jacket! He was a proud little boy, and I was a proud mama.
Yeah, I cried a little. I don’t think I’ve ever seen the distinct look of pure pride on The Boy’s face. He had accomplished this all on his own & he knew it! He glanced over at me & smiled, we exchanged the “thumbs up” sign.
I know it might sound silly, but I think he may have found his place. This might be his sport. I can’t see soccer as his sport, or baseball … He needs something that is more of a solo “team” sport. In this class, he’s part of a team, but his success is solely based on his own merits. And quite frankly, I’m a little relieved about this for several reasons – I mean, of course, I’m happy for him, but selfishly, I’m happy for me, too. The thought of early Saturday soccer games out in the hot sun & weekday practices out in the hot sun don’t appeal to me. I would do it, sure, and I even had envisioned him having the “All-American” childhood, replete with a position on the soccer & little league teams when he was growing inside of me. But maybe I’m not going to be a soccer mom. Maybe I’m going to be a Karate Mom … or a Tennis Mom … or a Golf Mom. I’m cool with that.
It’s been really spectacular to see the change in him … And it’s not just me & The Husband who see a change, his teachers commented to me that The Boy has been making big strides lately. It’s a tough class & it’s three times a week, but it’s something that The Boy looks forward to – he enjoys the challenge & the routine, knows what’s expected of him & when he pushed back (which the instructor said he’d do,) he got his belt taken away for 2 classes! He earned it back & learned the lesson: can’t clown around in karate. There’s a time & a place for messing about, but in karate class, you act professionally, take it seriously & do your best.
Warning: MOMMY BRAG Ahead!
Yesterday, after being in this class for less than 6 weeks, he did this entire series called “Appreciation Form” which is a 12-step series of different hand movements FLAWLESSLY without any assistance from an instructor! He even showed up a camouflage belt (highest belt in the class!) The Instructor praised him “never seen a white belt do that series all on his own without any help! Well done!”
We’ll see how it goes, but I think we’ve finally found his sport 🙂