Basketball Season

This week Sawyer started his first season of peewee basketball! In his first game, he only played during the last couple minutes of the game, but he was absolutely ecstatic, and seeing his excitement as he skipped (yes, he was skipping along the court- Emily and I had to explain that he needed to run and not skip. LOL) and played was worth everything to me. Last night he played his second game, and he did SO well! He listened to his coaches, showed good hustle on the court, and showed great sportsmanship. I am so proud of him!! When he’d get the ball, his teammates would cheer for him… Hearing those kids yelling “Go, Sawyer!” and “Good job, Sawyer!” made my heart happy. I won’t lie… I got a little teary-eyed a couple of times. I don’t care if he sits the bench 90% of the time; seeing how happy he was about those few minutes on the court makes it all worth it. ♥

Sawyer loves basketball; it’s the one sport he’s ever shown true interest in, so when he came home and said he wanted to play peewee basketball, I was excited but also nervous at the same time. I’ve written before how competitive sports (and games in general) are touchy for Sawyer because he absolutely cannot stand to lose, and he can be a pretty bad sport sometimes. He gets really upset if he loses anything, and takes things like someone stealing a ball personally, as if they’re out to get him and not just play the game. We’ve had many talks over the years about how everyone else playing wants to win, too, so he has to understand that and not get so mad if his team loses or if someone takes “his” ball. Another issue we face is the possibility of overstimulation; all the sights and sounds in the gym can be really hard for my little guy. He hates the sound of sneakers squeaking on the floor, and the buzzers scare the crap out of him. Not to mention all the conversations and the echoing that happens in a gymnasium… all the stuff most people tune out, he can’t, and it can be too much for him sometimes. Last night I thought I might have to take him out of the gym… He was sitting on the bench, holding his ears and looking very upset. I caught his eye from across the gym and mouthed “Are you ok?” He shook his head no, and I started to get up. But then he smiled a little, so I thought “Maybe he misunderstood me.” This time I gave him a thumbs up, and then a thumbs down, as my way of asking him if he was good or not. He flashed me a thumbs up and a smile, so then I relaxed. He made it through the rest of the game with no issues.

A few weeks back, Sawyer’s coach approached me about possibly letting him play with a younger age group. Sawyer is in 5th grade, but his coach thought it might be better for him to play with the 3rd and 4th grade teams. I understood his reasoning; there are a LOT of kids in Sawyer’s age group, and his coach said he’d get to play more with the younger group since there aren’t as many players in that league. He didn’t say this to me, but I also thought it might be because Sawyer is not as aggressive with the sport as most of the kids in his age group, and thought his coach might be concerned that he would get hurt playing with the kids his age. I talked to Sawyer about it, but he insisted that he wanted to stay with the 5th grade group. I talked to him about getting to play more with the younger group, but Sawyer said he didn’t care if he had to sit the bench a lot- he wanted to stay with his “friends”- and that made me realize something…

Sawyer does love to play basketball, but for him, I think this is more about being included. You see, Sawyer has had a hard time making close friends. He is a very friendly, happy-go-lucky kid but he has trouble connecting with kids his own age because mentally he is more immature than they are. The boys in his grade are into sports, hunting, and are starting to play more advanced games on things like the XBox or PlayStation, while Sawyer is still into stuffed animals, Roblox games, and things like Numberblocks. It definitely makes it hard for him to find things in common with the kids his age, and while most of the kids he goes to school with are nice to him, he is rarely invited to birthday parties for other kids in his grade, and he’s never gotten to have a sleepover with a friend. He’s also absolutely terrified of dogs and cats, and since almost everybody I know has a pet, that makes it difficult to visit other people’s homes. The heartbreaking part is that Sawyer aches for these things; he has come home many times talking about a sleepover he heard about in class, and has said “I wish I could go to the sleepover” or “I wish I was invited to so-and-so’s party.” Whenever those moments come up, I find a way to distract him from it and we get through it, but as his momma, it never fails to hurt my heart.

Sawyer knows he’s different; that’s one of the main reasons we started this blog. I know some people think I write this blog because I am an overshare-er, but I write this to help spread awareness of what life is like for us as an autism family. More people need to understand what life is like for Sawyer, for people like him, and for us as his family. Every person with autism is different, but almost all of them have issues with fitting into society, because society doesn’t understand/accept them. This blog was Sawyer’s idea; he wants people to understand him and accept him for who he is. For Sawyer, I think playing basketball with the 5th grade boys means belonging, fitting in, and having something in common with the other boys on the team, and after last night I think it’s pretty clear that his teammates are happy to accept him for who he is- different or not. ♥

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