Oh, The Things I Can Do!

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Variety is the spice of life and in Brian’s world, the various extracurricular activities that he is able to participate in has certainly enriched his life and ours ! It wasn’t always this way, in fact, there was a time when Brian would experience sensory meltdowns in public places on a regular basis, forcing us to often retreat back home. I remember one particular instance when Brian was just 2 years old and I had enrolled him in a toddler
music class. We had attempted to go 3 times, but the result was always the same sensory distress. On the way home from the third class, there was a torrential rainstorm and both Brian and I were crying. I could barely see through my own tears, let alone the windshield, because of the buckets of water that were falling from the sky. So much water everywhere, lol! I laugh now, but back then, the sadness I was feeling during that drive back home was overwhelming. There was also a deep down fear that we would never be able to participate in any social activities. I couldn’t imagine such a fate for Brian, or myself, as I’m an outgoing person and enjoy the company of others. Relationships with friends adds meaning and joy to our lives and I wanted Brian to experience that too. It really was a tough ride for a while! I had to keep the faith, especially during those early days and believe that over time and with practice, Brian would gradually learn to enjoy and engage in recreational activities. Very slowly, but surely, he has….

Over a decade later, Brian now participates in a number of recreational activities, thanks to  the generosity and dedication of several organizations who have a huge heart for our kids. These activities include: music therapy, swimming, and adapted recreational sports, such as volleyball, soccer, golf, karate, and T-Ball. There are  social outings, such as the New Jersey Shore Pirates Expeditions that  Brian participated in just last weekend with a New Jersey autism support group.There are also year round holiday parties, day and overnight camps,  surf camps, horseback riding, our town pool, and gatherings with other special needs families. We are truly so blessed to have access to multiple resources and social opportunities for our children. I think advocacy and disability awareness has increased exponentially over the past decade, resulting in such a positive outcome, though there is always more work that can be done to improve the lives of the disabled.

We continue to expose Brian to as many activities as we are able to, knowing it’s important for his overall development and our mental health. Brian’s default button would be to either watch the same programs on TV or play with the same apps on his i-pad.  He would be quite content in doing only these things if we didn’t push him to try other activities. There is always an adjustment or transition period with each new activity, but like the movie, “Ground Hog Day”,  we know a lot of repetition is required in order for Brian to be comfortable. It’s predictable and Brian’s sensory challenges in this regard have improved as he has gotten older. We would like to think that  maturity and our efforts in exposing Brian to different activities have also helped him to tolerate and engage in social activities.

Sometimes, though, as much joy as we get from taking Brian to these recreational activities, it can also be physically demanding for us. I pray daily for good health to be able to keep this momentum going, for it is not easy with our plates so full  with our children’s needs, as well as our own. Finding that balance, while taking care of our special children and ourselves is critical.  I continue to learn that self care is essential for the long haul, particularly in this instance, when we will need as much energy as possible to keep moving.

“Oh, the things that I have done and the things that I will do in the future “, says Brian.
I feel sometimes that is exactly what Brian is telling us when we see the joy in his face while in the pool, or hearing  his laughter during a holiday party, or when he hugs people on the sports field. “Oh, the things that I can and will do, in my own time, and never when you expect me to!”, says Brian. Ain’t it the truth?!   🙂

Until next time….thanks for reading! 🙂

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