Sunday, May 11, 2008

Soccer Recap

Yesterday was Ethan's last soccer game. As we gathered up his soccer ball and water bottle and walked to the car, I had mixed feelings as to whether the season was a success.
As I mentioned in a previous post, I was nervous about Ethan playing soccer. He has autism, and has a difficult time with social activities such as sports. His autism makes it hard for him to read social cues and be part of a team. Therefore he has a lot of anxiety in social situations. He also struggles to stay on task, and he can lose interest in an activity quickly, especially if he thinks it is hard to do.
I saw these issues play out in various scenarios over the course of the season. One time during practice, Ethan started joking around with another player and wouldn't stop, even though the other boy gave him a "stop it" look. During games, the coach had to constantly call his name and physically place him where he needed to be on the field. Instead of following the ball, Ethan looked the other way, and I yelled out from the sidelines, "Ethan, go get the ball! You can do it!"
At times I felt like his personal coach. One time, Ethan refused to come back on the field to play. The coach gave me a beseeching, "Will you talk to him?" look. I ran around the field, and asked Ethan why he wouldn't play. "Well," he said. "The other team is talking spanglish, and I feel shy around them." Actually, the other team consisted of a group of Vietamese boys, but I didn't want to go into that. "Ethan," I said. "You don't have to talk to them. You just have to kick the ball." After much coaxing, I got him back out there.
Then there was his best soccer move, "the flop." Any time a player would fall trying to kick the ball, Ethan spontaneously flopped down on the ground, too. He kept lying there as the other players started playing again. The coach and I often yelled, "Ethan, get up! Get up!" After a few seconds, he would rise and start playing again.
Watching him do "the flop" made me question whether this was worth it. I was hoping over the course of the season Ethan would grow to like soccer and be more self-motivated to play. But even though that wasn't the case, I still saw glimmers of hope. Ethan was always tickled to see his classmates and friends at the soccer field. Plus, my family made a great effort to cheer him on, which he really appreciated. But there was one moment that made me think he really wants to play soccer, despite "the flop." I would practice kicking the ball around with Ethan in the back yard. One time, as I was practicing passing with him, he said, "Mommy, you take good care of me." My heart swelled hearing that, and the next day I signed him up for the fall season.

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