When my special needs son was in kindergarten, I learned that his autism class would be participating in the Special Olympics. I’m going to be blunt – that freaked me out big time. I was still coming to terms with the fact that he hadn’t made it to the “mainstream” by kindergarten, which at the time was the end-all-be-all in our world. We were convinced that if we did all the work and therapy humanly possible during the preschool years, he’d be ready for school. I never really considered an alternative route, but there he was, in a self-contained special education classroom. I was still processing my denial, so the timing wasn’t great for someone to suggest that he compete in the Special Olympics. Yeah, I wasn’t happy.
Barrett’s teacher talked to me about it a few times, because his whole class was going. I don’t recall what it was that finally made me consent, but I was conscious of how it would look if I didn’t let him participate. I reluctantly attended the games, because despite my reservations, I was going to support my son. I have to tell you – it was quite surreal to sit in those stands and digest the fact that my baby was in the Special Olympics. It was tough.
I’m way past those days and I won’t elaborate on my emotional state back then, but it wasn’t pretty – and being pregnant at the time didn’t help. I’m happy to report seven years later, I’m all in. I love the Special Olympics and it’s one of my favorite days of the year – full of sweet moments that inspire me.
Miss Gina, Miss Beth & Miss Bobbi Jo, on the way to the Special Olympics
The spring games are held at one of our local high schools and each Special Olympian is assigned two high school buddies. I love seeing all the high school volunteers – they’re so enthusiastic and patient. They make life a lot easier for the teachers and parents, who otherwise would be spending all their time counting heads. Also, some of the athletes have physical limitations that may prevent them from participating if it were not for the help of a buddy. This year, Bear scored two cute girls and he was quite happy about it.
The opening parade is a highlight of the day. All the schools make their own banners and the classes march around the track with a marching band playing and Ronald McDonald leading the way. The cheering crowd goes wild and I always get a bit emotional. You can see by the looks on the students’ faces that they know the day is all about them and it’s thrilling for most (but there are some who can’t handle the attention or the noise).
For me, it’s a big reunion. We’ve lived here for nine years (a personal record), and Barrett has attended five different schools. Consequently, I know many teachers, therapists, administrators and parents. It’s so much fun to see everyone again and bring them up to date on my boy. This particular year was especially fun, because Barrett has grown so much (he’s now taller than me) and it shocked many. Also, he made his television news debut that week, so everyone was gushing to Bear about how they loved seeing him on TV.
Had an opportunity to catch up with my friend (and speech therapist extraordinaire) Sarah.
The most exciting aspect of the day was that Barrett actually competed this year! In the past, he had little interest in doing what was expected of him, and spent most of his time trying to ditch his chaperones. Side bar: Watching this from the stands has always been very funny for me, because for once it’s not mom who he was trying to shake! With two sweet girls by his side this year, Bear was ready to impress.
Bear running for the long jump.
Lining up for the 50 yard dash (Bear is to the right of the pink balloon).
Lucky for us, Barrett attended quite a few track meets this spring (his brother runs on his middle school track team) and apparently this made an impression. When he heard the word “go” at the start of the 50 yard dash, he was off! Bear’s classmate Sam was ready to go, as well, and smoked him at the start. Man, was Sam fast, but Barrett kept at it and was able to catch up to Sam at the end, but not in time to win. That was okay, because the real reward came when he crossed the finish line and looked around for ME! He wanted to make sure that his momma had been watching. I cannot adequately explain what that did to my heart, but it was a sweet moment. Thank you Special Olympics! Bear did pretty well for himself, coming in 1st overall in his class.
Run Barrett, run!
This post was inspired by Mama Kat’s World’s Greatest Writing Workshop. The prompt was to write a blog post inspired by the word “sweet.”
Have you ever been to the Special Olympics? Tell me about a sweet moment in your life.
Blog Note: I’m hosting a Road Trip Giveaway ($25 Target Visa Card, Total bag, atlas, Yankee Candle, some books & more) – for a chance to win, click here. Just read the post and comment with your suggestions. Winner will be announced Friday.