My oldest has been participating with the Special Olympics of Kansas for three years now. And I am so thankful for the small community of coaches and athletes that have supported us as he participates.
Last weekend at the State Basketball Competition at Washburn Rural High School in Topeka, KS I realized that though he’s only been involved for three years, he and I have become veterans of a sort.
He participated in the individual skills of dribbling, shooting, and spot shot.
For the first, the goal is to dribble a short distance from point a to point b. Our first year the challenge was getting him to bounce the ball. He wanted to hold it and run. But not run to point b, but run out of the building. Or he was focused on the ceiling, or all the other people around him and the background noise. Expecting him to focus on bouncing a ball was a lot. This year he bounced the ball, sometimes two-handed, sometimes one-handed while I jogged backward encouraging him to keep going. The boy who came after us, whose mom I see every now and then reminded me of us that first year when my oldest was more on intent on wandering and surveying the gym than the exercises in front of him.
The second skill you shoot at the basket from 6 different marked x’s on the floor. My son hit the backboard about 4 times and came really close to making a basket! A long way from our first year where he would turn his head and then throw up the ball, or place his right ear to the ground to feel the all the x markings.
The third skill, spot shot, you throw the ball up against a marked square on a wall. 5 out of 6 times in the square! And he stayed behind the marked line. Woohoo! Can you imagine all the concentration it must have taken to block out the lights, noise, and people in that gym to make those shots? Looking at him now, you might not have guessed he was the same child that started 3 years ago.
After my oldest’s first couple of basketball practices three years ago, I worried that he didn’t like it. I had tried hand over hand bounce passing and he bit his hand. He kept eloping into the hall. I didn’t want to make him uncomfortable, nor force him to do something that he didn’t enjoy. But I also didn’t want to give up so quickly. The day he got his team shirt with his name on it and a number, something changed He started going to his drawer on the weekends to get his uniform before I said anything. He wrote “we go middle school basketball” on his speaking device. So we worked on modifications to help him keep going. He wore hats or hoods to practice. I had him hold the basketball more often than bounce it in the beginning just to become used to its shape and feeling in his hands. I let him run or walk more laps than the rest of his team before working with the ball because that helped. We practiced shooting after school. I told his OT and they added passing the ball as a skill to work on during sessions. As a reward, we would go on a drive, go to a park, or get his favorite drink after practices.
My goal with Special Olympics and my son has always been getting him out into the community more. Also so that he could have a team of his own. I wanted him to have a hobby outside of school with goals to achieve that he could claim as his own. I’m so glad we stayed with it.