I am taking an adaptive Physical Education class and I am having a blast in it. The class is an introduction to the instruction of PE to children s with disabilities. As a part of the class, we are required to do service hours with a few projects around town. I chose project Play. We have many children who are brought together from the area with mild to moderate disabilities. Children in this program can be working with Autism, Down’s syndrome, Intellectual Disabilities and some physical disabilities.
Tonight was my first night and I was assigned Jacob*. He came with his grandmother Verne*. He is staying with Verne while his mom is on active duty in the military. Jacob has high functioning Autism. He is bright as everything and so willing to direct and make sure everything is done to his liking.
I filled out an info card with Verne and then went to play (he would not come to meet me so I had to go out and initiate contact). Jacob has some issues with socialization and behavior. He is an only child so it is complicated by the fact that he is not the most social child and already is the center of his universe by his circumstance.
We played. I mean we PLAYED. He wasn’t sure how to start so he ran from corner to corner trying to find things to do. We played with some bouncy balls and then I could see his mind switch on. He got a jump rope and proceeded to turn a basketball hoop into a trap for bouncy balls. It was interesting to see that many people around him seemed to think that he was having trouble doing what he liked. He would take a large ball and put it in a tube so that it would block the exit. He would then stuff as many balls as he wanted into it to make an avalanche. I watched and watched and watched him. I wanted to see how he was doing. He was having a ball until an adult came by to “help” him. She took the ball out and I could see his fists clench and his face turn down and his elbows go out. He was ready for a fight.
Let’s just say that distraction is a wonderful thing and works even better when you are in a gym filled with toys. We found something else to do and he ran me for the entire 90 minutes I was there. He wanted to collect balls and it took me a minute to recognize that he only wanted one kind of ball. BLUE! I could not figure out why he was ignoring so many other balls. THAT was exhausting and I had a fear that we were going to be going around all night looking for every blue ball so I helped him along by making it a hunt. We found all of the balls.
Jacob is working on sharing and his socialization skills. So I worked on him asking for things from some of the other kids. He would have me start then he would finish. It took a while to go to the other kid who loved to collect balls. He crept up to the side of the play structure the other child was in and tried to start the conversation, when up popped the other child offering him a ball. You should have seen his eyes light up!
At the same time, another group of kids had gotten a hold of the balls that he had so diligently collected and began to spread them through the gym. I hopped into distraction mode and let him know that we needed to go look for something else blue. That came in the form of the roller turtle. You know those little things we used to have races with at the roller rinks when we were kids? I chased and chased and chased and yeah. I’m still tired.
My ass was exhausted. I had to sit down so I asked him to count the balls with me. He was more than willing to watch me count but didn’t want to help. Oh well, this is called Project Play. So I counted (and RESTED) and he watched.
Jacob has high functioning Autism. Most people would look at him now and think he was a kid with only behavior problems if they did not know his history. His mother knew something was not going right with her son’s development and she took it upon herself to make sure that services were in place. She did a fabulous job because he is functioning at a level that will make things more manageable as time goes on. For him and for his teachers and peers.
I have to admit it, I am the kind of person who will fall in love with a child at first sight or make up my mind that I don’t want to work with them as well. He is a challenge, but I am enjoying my time. When it was time to go, he switched to “NO” mode. That was a little difficult to deal with but he recognized that I was not going to tolerate that for long. He was running and playing and scooting around on the turtle and was not ready to go. I reminded him of all the things I did for him and let him know that I have a little boy that I have to get home to and take care of.
We got him to put up the toys and headed out the door and we waked to the car. I chatted with Verne on the way out and started to walk to my car.
Jacob grabbed my arm and took me back to Verne’s car, opened the car door and motioned for me to come with them. I let him know that I was sorry I could not go but that I would see him next time and into the car he went.
I am going to love this physically exhausting opportunity. I was not sure if I could offer any more love to a child and there I was handing out more.