As a parent of a special needs child, I find myself constantly, helplessly, shamelessly hovering: a Helicopter Mom. Yes, it's necessary for his safety; I still cannot afford to trust his judgement. I watch his actions and interactions to be sure he won't be hurt mentally or physically or act inappropriately. But I also watch to note teachable moments for later, to marvel at his progress or agonize over backslide. Sometimes we need to step back and let someone else take over. Even (gasp!) to let our special needs children find their own way.
|Love this pic: the focus on G and his purposeful stride as the world around him blurs by.|
The decision to move forward into Tae Kwon Do came entirely from G and his desire to be like his older siblings, who are 2 belts away from black belts (yippee!). My husband has been pushing; I did NOT think G was ready. I feared that he wasn't yet ready to handle the rigorous, disciplined acumen that TKD demands, especially in a neurotypical setting with a Master unaccustomed and untrained in special needs. I checked into specialized TKD classes at therapy centers, not finding any close enough or within our budget. My husband took G to watch his 2 older siblings at TKD when he could. I'd tried for 3 years to sit on the sidelines and remain controlled and quiet like the other parents and siblings - ha! What a losing battle that was for my no rules, no boundaries, tantrum-prone, ASD, sensory seeking/overloaded G. Just getting him to stay off the gym floor, away from sleeping babies, or from tumbling childrens' board games, from playing on the equipment smashed into the corner - became a tantrum mess. G would scuttle from disruption to disruption in the crowded small space. He'd take a cell phone from a parent's belt and play with it. He'd nestle up to someone working on their laptop and punch buttons. He'd pull out all the games from the cupboard and dump them, then climb the cupboard. He'd run in the bathroom and wash his hands for 5 minutes or flush the toilet over and over. He'd try on everyone's shoes and coats in the corridor, mixing them up. Then he'd throw them. He'd drink from the exercising kids' water bottles. He'd run to the door and out to the parking lot and into traffic, me chasing behind, panic-stricken. All of this in a 10 minute time span, with no words, only grunting or laughing in reaction to my frustration and attempts at redirection. I finally gave up in exasperation, only going inside the gym with G when I needed something urgent.
So my husband took over a few months ago, heartily believing that TKD would win over chaos. He began taking G for a few minutes near the end of TKD class, then 5 minutes, 10, 30, and recently the whole class. He started to report that G was copying the students' movements. Then G joined in for longer sequences, standing way back on the gym floor. Then he delighted that G and the TKD Master had "connection", they seemed to enjoy each other and G sought the Master out. At home, G began donning the kids' old outgrown uniforms and play-acting with them. Next - what really was the clincher for me: he sat through an entire testing, a 2.5 hour, hot ordeal sitting on the cramped hard gym floor. He watched kids do their forms, get tested on terminology, break boards, and the final belt presentation ceremony. That's not to say he didn't fidget (with my always-present bag of tricks) or that we didn't have to be firm, but I would never have imagined that he'd sit for that. Heck, most of the adults were squirmy and "playing" with electronic devices.
So I started to take G to watch the kids at TKD and to grow the relationship with the sport, the gym, and most importantly: the Master. This week I took a nap one afternoon (an almost-never luxury, and only because I have a raging sinus infection). When I awoke, my daughter and G ran into the family room to show me their lively activity during my nap. They were both fully outfitted in sparring equipment and had been practicing sparring in the hallway upstairs (it's a wonder my priceless family photos are still intact!). G insisted on wearing the uniform all afternoon and cried so hard when I tried to get him to change to go watch the kids at TKD, that I simply gave up and let him wear it, green belt and all. The Master laughed and asked G if he wanted to do TKD. G replied, "Yes, I want to go to class like N and M! Look at my uniform!" So, I asked the Master if he thought G was ready, and he agreed to let him participate in a trial class. On the day of his trial class, I was nervous, so nervous that G would break into tantrum, or get distracted. I was prepared to leave on the fly with him if necessary, at-the-ready with a backup reward of going for ice cream to soothe him if it flopped. Or worse, what if he loved it, but the Master told me that G wasn't ready yet, causing hurt and rage and major difficulty. How would I be able to manage taking the kids to TKD if G was shunned?
Here, the opening 2 minutes of class, warm-ups. I nervously laugh, his sister giggles and whispers as we watch our little cutie try with all his might to keep up with the jumping jacks. I say, "We'll have to work on this," Yup. Happily.
G's 1st Tae Kwon Do warm-up, he's far right back row:
Only after I got home and viewed the video I'd taken a few times did I notice that all of the kids in class were doing their own version of jumping jacks, no 2 perfect or the same. I've since learned from a PT that jumping jacks are one of the hardest skills to teach or master. All I know is that we got such a kick out of our little guy trying and sticking with it. He didn't get frustrated or tired or discouraged, he just kept going, and loving it.
No worries. G did an amazing job. He kept his focus, stunned the Master, me and his sister. He was enthusiastic and tried, though at times with a lag to process some instructions. I believe that his mental and physical processing will improve when the movements get more rote, when he begins to feel the patterns. I also think that TKD will help with pathways in his mind, to speed his processing time. I know it has already given him confidence. That's the reward that I'm most thrilled about. Shout out to G, and to my husband for his persistence when I was not able to deal with yet another hurdle, another tantrum, another failed attempt at an activity. It worked, and I can't wait to see where TKD takes my G!