Our son Johnathan has been desperate to join a baseball team. We promised him when he turned 8 that he could start playing baseball. So as February turn into March, I started looking through school papers more carefully to make sure that I didn’t miss the notice for baseball sign ups.
When we got the announcement a couple weeks ago, we were thrilled to see that this league has a special needs baseball team. Scott cannot bounce a rubber ball and catch it. He also can’t throw one in the air and catch that. These are physical limitations that have to do with the wiring in his brain – things is occupational therapist knows about and works with. (Though, she did tell us that he’s spot-on with a spitball, and we’re waiting for him to get old enough to possibly join a shooting team, because she said she’s never seen any kid with his accuracy before. Spit balls — who knew occupational therapy could be so fun.)
He’s 10. Kids his age have been playing ball since they were 5 or younger. We fully planned to put Scott on the special needs team.
Yesterday, we packed up the boys up to go sign up for baseball. On the way there, Gregg told me that he felt like we should let Scott sign up for a regular team. His reasoning was that he doesn’t want to apply limits that may not be necessary to apply. He said he would rather give him an opportunity to play a regular team and if he fails, move him to the special needs team.
I’ll admit that I was uneasy about that, because beyond his physical limitations with ball catching, Scott has never played team sports, and struggles with more than two-step directions.
At the community center, I filled out the paperwork and just hesitated over registering Scott for the older team. It didn’t feel right. So, we asked the coach if Scott could play on the younger team with his brother.
The coach explained that league rules allowed for younger kids to play up, but not older kids to play down. That’s understandable. You could stack a team with young Babe Ruths in order to sweep the series — I get that. Disappointed, I said that Scott had autism and had never played before. The coach immediately assured us that an autism diagnosis would probably allow for him to play down and stay on a team with his younger brother — provided we had an official medical diagnosis. He would take it to the coaches council and seek special permission, but he’s never seen it denied for autism.
We’re elated. This is a great compromise. We still have the power to move Scott to the special needs team, but we’re being given an opportunity to let him try to participate without applying any limits to his abilities — because while he can’t bounce a rubber ball and catch it, we don’t know what he can do with a bat gripped in his hands or a glove giving him a larger surface area in which to catch the ball.
We have about a month before any true practice begins. The weather is nice here in Kentucky, as winter is giving way to spring. I know that Gregg and the boys will be outside as often as possible, toning muscles and building hand-eye coordination as the two prepare to start playing baseball for the first time.
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