Adventures in Autistic Parenthood

Friday, May 10, 2013

Race Strategy:

It's a great day for battle!
     It's that time of year again when our intrepid adventurers embark onto the field of honor to do... uh... honorable battle, to win....uh... honor! Or, to break with tradition and make an actual coherent statement; it's Special Olympics time again!
    Because the weather cooperated (for once) and Raine needed the car to do last minute baby shower things (not that everything we do has to be last minute, it just seems to work out that way most of the time) Dave and I geared up and rode the motorcycle to WBHS (Western Beaver High School) for the festivities. If you've read any of these things you might remember that we've had the occasional problem with showing up on time (like every time) or had problems with the weather, (also every time) but this trip both time and the environment were seemingly cooperating. We even had time for a burrito break (we needed energy, I was told) When that much is going right, something's got to give, so I guess I should have foreseen a problem with the parking people. What the lady wanted me to do was drive my 482.8 pound 7 1/4 foot long (I looked it up) bike into the field with the 4 wheeled conveyances and rest it, on the soft earth with its 2 square inch kickstand pad. That's a recipe for a hernia. As anyone who's tried to sit on a 4 legged chair in the backyard knows, as soon as the weight hits the legs it's gonna sink. Not wanting to come back after the competition to find my motorcycle laying on its side like an old dog, I objected. After a brief discussion on weight displacement
theory we were allowed to park on the asphalt.
Olympic Biker-Dude!
    Dude and I were packing our gear into the saddlebags when one of the guys from his class named Mitch showed up. Mitch is more severely autistic than Dave is and has a harder time making himself understood, but he and I get along pretty well, and he remembers me every year. This year it wasn't difficult to understand what he was trying to convey. He liked the bike. He kept tapping the seat, grunting, and then making the ASL (American Sign Language) sign for 'mother' (who was right behind him) and smiling at me. Dude was having none of it. The Virago is his bike (never mind who holds the paper and pays the insurance) most especially the passenger pad was his seat, and it would not be sullied by the touch of another. Even a classmate. Raine doesn't like riding the bike so we haven't had that particular battle yet.  Anyway, I was trying to keep Dude from confronting Mitch over ownership of the pillion seat when Mamma Mitch showed up (I really, really suck at remembering names) and explained that Mitch absolutely loved motorcycles... from the ground. It seems that his uncle has a Harley and Mitch absolutely will not ride it, but loves checking it out when it's not running. Dude seemed to take this into account and we were able to go our separate ways without any further hints of mayhem.

We're never letting Ashley out.
 We made our way up to the grandstands looking for Ms. Yarosz. Okay, that's a lie. I never actually expect to find Ms Y, I just wander around looking like I'm searching until she finds Dude. I'm pretty sure he's got a GPS tracking dot implanted somewhere that allows her to track him anywhere in the world. And I'm ok with that. 'Cause there's no way that I can find one teacher-needle in a whole teeming stack of teacher-needles mixed up in a stadium full of students, buddies and parents. Although this year, in a stunning feat of planning and forethought, Ms Y had actually sent his event card and lunch ticket in an envelope the night before.  Dave's former aide, Ashley, found us (see? it always works) and in a blur asked me to help her out with her camera, which was the same as mine, but didn't have the cool lens like mine did, and she was jealous. I took a quick second to search through the barrage, and told her I'd find her later. We continued on looking for Ms Y, mostly to rub her nose in the fact that we (after 12 years of trying) had actually made it to the stands before she did. We found out (from the aide who, once again, found us) we'd made it a whole year before she did, because she was sick and didn't even go this year. Oh well... at least the aide found us, which is a good thing, because I'd never even met her before. (Hint: When walking around large groups of people, don't look for anyone, just walk with a Rockstar and everyone will find you.)
   There was some confusion about Dave's first event. He's normally in the Soft Ball Toss, the 50 meter run, and the Standing Long Jump. Has been for the last decade. Having no idea of the true destructive power of my son, someone decided he should throw an 18 pound steel weight around, probably because a softball just doesn't have enough potential for excessive damage. We were already over at the SBT when I finallylooked at his competition tag and saw 'shotput' instead of 'soft(ie:safer)ball'. I immediately dragged my son back to the grandstand area and tried to get this 'typo' corrected, only to find out that it was no typo. So I took David to the exact opposite side of the event so that he could hurl cannonballs around and scatter the (hopefully) fleeing populace.
Dave had a high heat number and while we were waiting one of the event helpers, after seeing David's card, insisted on telling us how he'd won every 100 meter run he'd ever entered when he was participating in Special Olympics. Then he asked me if I wanted to know his strategy, I politely replied that I did. He said that at first he would lag behind, letting his competition become a bit overconfident, and then he would blaze right past all of them in the last 10 meters or so. I told him that was a very good strategy, but at the time Dude didn't seem all that impressed. After quite a bit of wait, it was finally time for his heat. They were giving each kid 2 warm-up throws and 2 tries for the medal.
    There are two things you need to know about Dude. 1: Because of his underdeveloped right thumb he ends up doing many things with his left hand, but David is actually right-handed. 2: Because of his genetic make-up David is an incorrigible ham-bone. (stop laughing Raine!)  So when it came time to hurl the 'Sphere of Death' (shotput) he naturally cradled it in his right hand and let it go. I was slightly ahead of him (but well out of the line of fire) and on his left side. When he made his throw, it turned his body and he saw me
Is this going to make the cover?
with my camera taking his picture. Naturally the next throw was with his left hand... I guess so I could get his good side. That throw wasn't quite as good as the one before and with the coordinator guy encouraging him to throw further and better he once again cradled the shotput in his right hand and let fly. After the throw he once again spies his photobug dad shooting him in profile, and for the last throw he just couldn't stand it, and once again tried a left-handed (but facing the camera) shot. He ended up with a Silver Medal... with one of the right-handed shots, and I ended up with a series of pictures so I guess it worked out for both of us (mostly for him).
    Next up was the 50 meter run. But along the way I had to try to look for Ashley to, I thought, teach her about her camera. Once again travelling with a rockstar worked out for me, and she found us. 'Cause she wasn't where she said she was going to be, and there was no way I was going to be able to find her. Turns out she just wanted one setting explained and once I did that (with Dude tugging me toward the track, 'Got to run the race and get the medal!) I let him drag me over to the 'Almost ready to start waiting to get into the line to start the race' line. There was a nice young girl there left alone to the tender mercies of quite a few more parents than I usually see 'buddying' an event. Oh... and they had no mercy. They badgered her about starting times, heats, kids and who knows what-all else until the poor girl was completely frazzled.
Notice him eyeing the Starting Lady, and her, eyeing him.
  When it was Dave's turn to wait to start I walked about 40 meters down the track to set up my shots. David has had some... interesting notions about the starting and running of races in the past, so when the starter-lady saw who was in the last lane she changed sides to be better able to keep an eye on the little cheater. She got him back behind the starting line (twice) and finally she could start the race. Now, normally, when the races start Dude is off like a shot, but this time he was behind almost everyone after 10 meters. After that it was like he pushed the nitro button and he flew by just about everyone in the next 30. I began to smell a rat (or a ringer) when he looked down the line at the 40 meter mark, saw that he was in the lead, and started grinning. He (as usual) ran right through the finish line and
Turbo Boost activated!
started running around looking for his medal, yelling, 'Yay!! I'm the winner!! That's right! We're number one! All others are number two or lower'  Darting this way and that, making it almost impossible to get a hold of him. He knows that he's got to wait for the timer to get his name and take him over to the table, but he's also torn by his desire to get that gold colored beauty around his neck, so he ends up running in large circles until I, or the timer, grab him.
I got this!

     We finally got him corralled and over toward the line of chairs they have for the runners. The theory is that one woman sits the contestants down in the order in which they finished and then the other lady hands out the medals in that order. It's a wonderful system... until Dude gets involved. He was in no way prepared to wait for his heat's turn to sit in the 'Thrones of Victory' and immediately tried to roust the winner of the last heat out of 'his' chair. I grabbed him by the shoulder and distracted him for the time it took the 'medal lady' to hand out the awards. The 'sitting lady' immediately called his name, and like the conquering hero that he was, he strutted over to his chair and sat down.
    He waited (fairly) patiently for the 'medal lady' to place his accolade around his neck, but once she had and while she was placing the, no doubt lesser, awards on the others he leaned back in his chair like an old campaigner, kicked one leg over the other and said loudly enough to be heard in that chaos, 'Want to know MY strategy? Come on up and I'll tell you all about it!' I almost dropped my camera I was laughing so hard
Want to hear my winning strategy?
. He had heard every word the guy over at the shot-put had said, and decided to try it out for himself. And it worked, the little shit!
  We made our way over to the Standing Long Jump, Mrs Jacobs, at least I still think that's her name, (I hope so, anyway, that's what I called her)  is Ashley's aunt, so we had another visit from her while we were there, and yet another blatant attempt to get me to post her picture here.(what can I say? I'm a soft touch) Due to Dude's Superstar status, as soon as it was recognized that he was in their midst they immediately started asking around for the other members of his heat, and once they were all rounded up they started the show.
   At the SLJ this year they had this older gentleman helping out, and it wasn't fair. He was totally having more fun than the kids. And they were having a blast. This guy coached each kid, counting them down and coaching them to help them with their jumps, and he was just having too much fun, swinging his arms on the count and encouraging each one to do their best. Dude wasn't sure what to make of this guy, but he was enjoying the 'show'. He was so mesmerizing that Dude completely forgot his usual ham-bone warm ups before his first two jumps. But he couldn't deny himself totally, for the last jump he squatted very low, his arms jet-planed behind him and then he shot up and out into the air and almost out-jumped his ability to land. But unfortunately (sort of) he went way up but not way
Ready for take-off!
out, and ended up taking the Silver medal. But he did manage to hold the landing in a goofy sort of way. Kind of making up for the lack of theatrics in the first two jumps.
   So another Special Olympics was in the books. David and I returned to the Virago, we geared up, and headed home, making kind of an Olympic record, as the round-trip was the furthest we'd ever ridden the bike together. He had been so good at the Games, and also had obtained the requisite smileys during the week, so we stopped at GameStop on the way home and got him a game worthy of his Medal winning status.
    While we were at the Games, I'd offered a couple of times to hold his medals while he competed. Dude would not be parted with his hardware for love nor money. Once we got home, however, he immediately shucked his medals off and headed for the shelf. I tried to slow him down, 'Hang on, man. What are you doing?' He looked at me like I'd just arrived from another planet. 'You take the medals home and they go on the shelf.' Knowing how proud he'd been of them all day, I tried again,  'Uh, don't you want to show them to Raine?' 'No.' he calmly replied, 'Medals go on the shelf when you get home, remember?' As if I'd forgotten in the last 12 seconds. Evidently if Raine wanted to see his medals she'd either have to look on the shelf, or be at home to fete him in the oldest 'Conquering Hero' fashion. I shook my head. 'Dude, put the medals on the table and go play your game.' He placed the hardware on the coffee table with a doubtful expression on his face. But the lure of a new game was too much for him, and he went. When Raine got home later, he came down to show them and seemed all proud again. And then he put them on the shelf with all the other ones. I think he just wanted to make sure that the two 'old folks' didn't forget where medals go when you get home.

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