I know a lot of kids and adults with disabilities who love and excel at a variety of team sports. But my son is not one of them. When he was very young, we signed him up for an inclusive soccer league in our community. He loved participating in the season kick-off parade and the end-of-season awards party, but not much else.
The coach was encouraging, his teammates were accepting, but my son didn’t want anything to do with running up and down the field after a ball.
Over the years, we also tried T-ball, basketball, and gymnastics. Attempts at getting him to take part were frustrating. We spent a lot of time sitting together on the sidelines or in the stands. He liked the after-practice snacks, but not even my best attempts could get him to play. I tried, but over time I gave up.
In high school, he brought home a flyer about the district’s Special Olympics bowling program. He had enjoyed bowling at a friend’s birthday party, so we decided to give it a try. In the past, he had used gutter guards. He liked knocking down those pins! But gutter guards are not allowed in Special Olympics bowling. His first practice score was a 12. He was not happy about that.
Yet he didn’t balk when it was time for the next week’s practice. His score improved a bit, as it did each week after that. On his next birthday, we gave him his own ball and shoes. That made a huge difference!
He learned to take his time, line up the ball, and adjust his form. Now, ten years later, his average is 63. His pride and joy is a wall in his room where he proudly displays his medals and ribbons.
I’ve tried to get him to try other Special Olympics sports. But he says he already has a sport. That works for me! We have both enjoyed the friendships made with his teammates and their parents over the years. He looks forward to going to Austin for winter games every February and celebrating with his friends at the annual sports banquet.
After high-school graduation, he moved to a young adult’s team. He had attended school with many of his teammates. The transition was smooth. Bowling has become an even more important aspect of his social life now that he is no longer in school.
After bowling practice on Saturday mornings, we often go to lunch with some of the other families. He and his teammates celebrate birthdays and go to movies together. Saturday morning practices provide physical exercise. Both so important for his physical and mental health.
Are you trying to help your child connect with a new sport or recreational activity? Try using the Navigate Life Texas search tool to find programs and activities in your area.