FatherSon Ventures

Building a Relationship through Adventure

My Gym

Written By: Scot Butwell - Oct• 15•12

I look up from the magazine I’m reading at D’s Saturday morning My Gym Whiz Kids class. As part of the warm-up routine, he is supposed to be outside the Big Red circle and stretching his arms above his head.

That’s what he is supposed to be doing.

Instead, he is running in circles and swerving within inches from crashing into the five other kids in his class. He resembles a Japanese kamikaze pilot, at least that’s what he looks like to me, and knowing my son as well as I do, it’s probably an accurate assessment.

My only consolation is he does not crash into his classmates, no other parents are watching, and he has an happy giddy smile, so at least I know he is having fun, and I know the reason for his kamikaze behavior.

D is hypersensitive to loud music. Loud music overstimulates his senses. Loud music throws his body out of whack. Loud music apparently turns him into a Japanese kamikaze pilot.

my gym balls

But judging from his swerving to avoid colliding into his classmates, he has a measure of control over his body. One of his teachers puts her hand gently on his shoulder to calm his body down.

Remember this. I go back to reading my men’s magazine, and when I look up again to check on D, his feet are on the back of the boy sitting in front of him in line and his legs are pushing the boy forward with full force.

I slide over the counter, give D a quick verbal warning, and hop back over to watch as he walks on two poles with foam padding on the bottom. It looks like he is walking on giant q-tips.

The Egg Roll is next: pull legs up to your chest, grab knees, pull them to your chest, roll backwards and side to side. D laughs as the other kids turn into eggs, but the rapid fire directions are bellowed too fast for him to follow.

DSCN0470Stinky Feet is next: smell your feet, grab soap and water, smell your feet, say pee-you, grab baby powder, sprinkle your feet with baby powder, smell your feet, sneeze and fall back. D is again unable to follow the nine-step sequence shouted in a fast tempo.

Yes, I counted in my second draft.

D laughs as his peers say pee-you, smell their feet, sneeze and fall backwards, and I mull over these questions: How concerned should I be about D not being able to follow multiple-step directions? Or his hypersensitivity to loud environments? Or his difficulty regulating his body when on sensory overload in loud environments?

My thoughts go to the United States puzzle map my brother’s family gave D for Christmas. Without me even realizing it, he learned the names of the states and their capitals. I heard him saying them to himself one day in his bedroom, and I quizzed him to see how many states and capitals he knew.

“What’s the capital of South Dakota?”

“Pierre.”

“What’s the capital of Texas?”

“Austin.”

“What’s the capital of Vermont?”

“Montpelier.”

And so it went. We went through all 50 states. He knew every state and capital and pronounced each one correctly. I was floored, and then I realized he had been learning the states and capitals from an electronic map L and I had bought him the previous Christmas.

I just didn’t know he was doing it.

My thoughts went next to D at age four. Every day when I came home from work, he would say, “Dad, let’s do Starfall.com.” We sat in a brown leather chair, and D loved seeing a dancing bear and other moving graphic images, laughing while repeating sounds for each letter.

I didn’t realize it at the time, but he was progressing from the sounds of letters and consonant blends to small words and in just three weeks, he was reading short stories on Zac the Rat, a tin robot, scurrying ants and a spilled jar of jam, and signs in stores at the shopping plaza up the street.

He was reading by age four. Maybe three and a half. I don’t remember his exact age, to be honest. Just that he learned much faster than I expected.

So as I reflected on his difficulty with multi-step directions, I reached this conclusion after five minutes: I will remember what he does well–and does exceptionally well–and if his development lags in other areas, I will let him progress at his own pace.

I think of the mother at McDonald’s, whose son didn’t start talking until age five. “You can’t push a button and speed it up,” she said matter-of-factly. “You just have to be patient.”

Two days later, I stumbled upon an article by Dr. Temple Grandin on kids with sensory differences (“Genius May Be an Abnormality”) that shifted my thinking, every sensory challenge for kids on the spectrum may often mirror a sensory ability that can represent a special talent in art, science, music, and engineering.

So the next time D struggles with the Egg Roll or Stinky Feet in his My Gym class, I will think of Albert Einstein, who didn’t talk until he was four,  watching trains whiz by to formulate his theory of relativity, Temple Grandin observing the behavior of cattle to create a more humane way for steer to be slaughtered for the food industry, or Leonardo daVinci, who everyone seems to thinkhad dyslexia.

In short, I won’t worry about the things he can’t do, but I will focus on the many things he can do.

“Genius May Be an Abnormality: Educating Students with Asperger’s Syndrome, or High-functioning Autism,” by Temple Grandin. Indiana Resource Center for Austism. website: iidc.indiana.edu. See x for a bio of Temple Grandin.

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