Have you ever taken a new class and felt a little nervous right before the first day because of the unknown? My kids have been taking sports classes at our local YMCA and loving them. But unfortunately their last class ended and there wasn’t another one to sign up for. However a Korean Karate class was being offered, and my boys didn’t want to stop having visits at our local gym.
So even though the class was going to be longer then they were used to, it would be twice a week instead of once, and the age for the class was confusing at best… The boys decided they wanted to give it a go.
The boys have been twice now and I’d like to say that I have been pleasantly surprised for the most part. Mr. C who has a difficult time committing to anything for more then 10 min besides talking all the time really seems into it and has already learned what the sound “Shhh” means.
Little Miss A wishes she could participate and for the most part enjoys kicking, punching, and yelling what she believes the commands are occasionally. And when that doesn’t keep her occupied she seems to be enjoying eating all my mints.
The jury is still out on how Mr. L feels about the Korean Karate class. With Autism it can be tricky to figure out if he likes it, and if not, what is it about it that he doesn’t quite enjoy- so we can try to work around the problem. He participated the first day and was all in until an hour had past and they wanted him to do some leg stretches.
Then he complained about his legs being too long, his arms too short and kept saying he couldn’t do it. Was it because he was used to only playing at the Y for an hour? Was it because he doesn’t like stretching? Well the next class came along and he said he already went to his class and that this Karate class wasn’t for him.
Because his old routine only involved one visit to the gym? Or because he decided he didn’t want to do it after all? I don’t know. We will go again next week and see if he likes going once a week.
But the reason I’m writing this blog post today isn’t because Little Miss A ate all my Ice Breakers, and it’s not because Mr. C seems to be finally interested in a sport past 10 minutes. It’s because I want to talk about the part of this experience that was old and new to me.
The part of this new experience that was easy for me was going to a new class, a new environment, a new group of people and new unwritten rules. I’m used to that, I’ve moved a lot in my life, and taken classes at a few college campuses. New cities, new parks, new grocery stores, and new social expectations.
But the thing that got me that wasn’t easy was listening to how the instructor was going to respond to my son’s autism. The guy is older, he’s been teaching Korean Karate for like 55 years, and unfortunately the people that I have met of his generation tend to not “get” autism and most often when they want to, they still miss the mark and tend to say unintentionally hurtful things.
Needless to say I was smiling but my eyes and ears were on full alert for how this gentleman and his black belt were going to respond to my introduction of my awesome kids. I wish I could find the right words to explain how my heart feels when I introduce adults to Mr. L, who might be working with him. I mean, the onlooker at the grocery store? Ha I don’t care what she thinks, or the guy taking my son’s order at a restaurant- no big deal. I advocate and move on.
But for the people who might be teaching my son who has a speech delay? My child who gets anxiety at the thought of being told he messed up, just because he misunderstood some unwritten social rules? It’s like my heart holds it’s breath. It’s like I’m shuffling through my deck of cards and wondering if I’m going to be playing my momma bear card, or my teaching the stupid stranger card, and I wait mentally fanning myself hoping I get to just play my thank you card and hope my other cards get to gather dust for awhile.
I guess I thought as life seemed to get a tiny bit easier for Mr. L to go places and learn to do things, that introducing him would start to fall into a normal feeling. But I can tell you it hasn’t. That mom part of my brain is probably always going to be wondering, is this stranger going to be kind? Are they ignorant? Are they up for learning? Or am I going to be defending my family for something I shouldn’t have to?
So as the instructor asked his assistant to introduce himself to my boys and then the instructor called his class over to him and he loudly explained that the “New taller kid” was autistic and was probably “going to be doing some chirping”, And that it was going to “be ok” and everyone was going to be “including everyone”. I decided that even if it wasn’t the tact I was hoping for, that the teacher was going to mean well.
I soon learned that the teacher was a retired high school principal, was familiar enough with autism, and that his class listened and so far has included both my sons. The younger girls even find Little Miss A on the sideline pretty adorable with the smiling eyes they keep peaking over at her whenever she tries to follow along next to me against the wall.
So I guess we will find out next week if Mr. L is going to hop back into class for once a week, or if he really has decided this martial arts style isn’t for him. 😉