Friday, March 16, 2007

Golden on a Diamond

No one has ever accused me of being conventional when it comes to attempting to engage children, students, clients, or patients. And for at least one more day of my life, it appears as though this shall hold true. Today I managed to be a father AND an expert all at the same time, and the results were truly dynamic.

Tommy’s annual IEP meeting is to be held next week. Because of some of the goings on in the past year, we are taking active steps to ascertain what he can do so that we can steer his services in the best possible direction to meet his needs at the meeting. Thus, following in the footsteps of my esteemed wife, I dropped by his class to witness him in action and attempt to win buy-in from the staff through my excellent skills and intimate knowledge of all things Tommy.

Opportunity knocked during P.E. time during a particularly unique game of Tee-ball. One intrepid Hmong warrior with Down’s Syndrome clearly grasped the concept of competition, as everything he did was with 110% effort and, for him, with supreme focus. Very quickly, I discovered that with Tommy this was not so much the case. He appeared quite disinterested in the whole concept of team sports, preferring instead to alternate randomly between gazing heavenward in wonderment, introspectively inspecting his fingernails, and clapping simply because he likes the percussive sound of it. Great, so much for interaction. Then the brilliant P.E. teacher asked if I would like to take a turn at the tee to see if Tommy could be enticed into taking part a little more conventionally. Would I! Ha!!!

I strode confidently up to the plate, and a relative hush fell over the field. Yep, it looked like most of the other students were in awe of me (Hey, how often does a parent come to spend time with them at school?). “Hey, TOM!” I yelled out to the 2nd base man, who hadn’t noticed the change of atmosphere and was presently inspecting each of his fingernails with the concentration of a monk. “Yo, look over here!”

His hand slowly dropped and his eyes rose to the familiar voice. “Shelby?” There we go. “Yeah, look over here. I’m going to hit the ball now. GET IT! Okay?….. OKAY?” …. After a long pause, he responded in his sing song way. “Okaaaay.”

It was my intention to get the ball near to him so that he would be forced to engage in the activity. In this case, ‘near’ turned out to mean pegging him squarely in the chest from 50 paces! It’s a GOOD thing that wasn’t a regular baseball, let me tell you!

You could have heard a pin drop in the grass; everybody (including myself) was shocked. Mind you, for different reasons. Staff were thinking, “Oh no! Is he hurt?! Is this parent gonna sue us for letting him bat?? But it’s his own kid…” I, on the other hand, was thinking more along the lines of, “Wow! Not bad for my first at-bat in 15 years. I never knew I could do THAT!!” (Tom was clearly not hurt; that ball was so light I’m surprised it even made out that far)

Now I REALLY had Tom’s attention. His eyes jolted wide open, and he stared at the white orb in front of him in puzzled wonderment as if to say, “How the heck did that get there?” Improbable circumstances had conspired for the perfect opportunity. “Hey TOM! Pick up the ball and get me OUT!” I yelled as I made a mock effort of sprinting to First base at the pace of a land tortoise with a Benadryl overdose.

Tom’s head raised at my familiar voice, then slowly lowered back to the ball as his voice trailed off, “Out?….” … It wasn’t working. Suddenly he came to as the whole field erupted with cheering, yelling, and kids jumping up and down. His eyes brightened. “OUT!!” he yelled. Then he snatched up the ball, barreled over to me in the midst of my tortoise impression worthy (I’m convinced) of an Oscar, and did just that. He was clearly proud of it, too.

It was the first time he’d ever done anything besides hit the ball and go around the bases randomly. Conventional? Nope, but name me anything else have worked that well?

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