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.

Instead, he is running in circles and swerving within inches from crashing into the other five kids in his class. He resembles a Japanese kamikaze pilot, and knowing D as well as I do, it’s probably an accurate assessment.

My only consolation is he does not crash into his classmates, there are no other parents watching, and he has a giddy smile, so at least I know he is having fun and, most importantly, I know the reason for his 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

Although judging from his avoiding collisions with his classmates, he has control over his body and rejoins the circle when one of his teachers gently places her hand on his shoulder.

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

I leap over the counter, give D a verbal warning, and slide back over, just in time to see D walk 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 rapud fire directions are shouted 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 eight or nine-step sequence shouted fast.

He 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. One day I heard him say them to himself 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.”

“What’s the capital of Arkansas?”

“Little Rock.”

And so it went. We went through all 50 states. He knew every state and capital and pronounced each one correctly. Then I realized he had been learning them from an electronic map L and I 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 leather chair, and D loved seeing a dancing bear in a pink tutu pirouette and repeating the sounds for each letter of the alphabet.

I didn’t realize it at the time, but he progressed from sounds of letters and consonant blends to small words, and  in only three in a half weeks, he was reading short stories on Zac the Rat and a Tin Robot, and signs in store windows  at the shopping plaza.

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 is jagged in other areas, I will let him progress at his own pace.

A few days later, I read an article by Dr. Temple Grandin on the internet about kids with sensory difference and it said, 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, I will think of Albert Einstein, who didn’t talk until he was four, watching trains whiz by to formulate his theory of relativity, or Temple Grandin observing the behavior of cattle to create a humane way for steer to be slaughtered.

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

“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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