John and I picked Alex up last night at 6:30 PM. She was supposed to have finished helping with football practice - but she wasn't done yet. We spotted the boys at the very end of the field in a huddle format. After waiting for five minutes John realized he should walk to the group and try to figure out when they were going to be done. As he neared the practice, he heard the coach asking Alex to get the Gatorade. Alex gladly jogged off to help. This is not her normal MO - anything involving jogging (despite her Special Olympics accomplishments) is usually done at a very slow pace - most of us would call it walking. We knew right away she was having a good day!
After about 20 more minutes Alex jogged (at her normal pace) to the car - she was beaming! I must admit that it was a beautiful afternoon - low 70's, sunny and the first practice - really no way I would anticipate a complaint. When I asked Alex how it went, her answer said it all "great". She said the Coach introduced her to the team as an assistant for the season and everyone said "Hi Alex" - I can just imagine the flutters in her heart as twenty teenage boys paid attention to my sweet daughter.
You see - one of her major challenges is reconciling that all the girls in her school, as well as all the girls on the Disney channel have boy friends, boy problems and boy crushes and she does not. Alex does not have a boy friend, and for a 16 year old that is devastating. Although the kids at her school are very nice - she is one of only a handful of kids with Special Needs in our small rural high school - and thus will probably not have a boy friend in the near future.
I have done a lot of research about kids with special needs and their relationships. It seems to be more successful for all parties involved that bonds are made with kids that are similar to you - this does not mean that I am not a supportive of inclusion and mainstreaming - because I am. If done correctly (and it is often not) I believe it is beneficial for everyone involved, special kids, "normal" kids and even the adults in the same environment. What this does mean is that I want Alex to also find friends that have the same challenges and joys as she does. I want her to be in a relationship where she is comfortable and does not feel "different". I want to be comfortable as her mom that she is in a safe place.
Guess I have my work cut out for me. Fortunately, through her local Special Olympics team we have met some of these kids - more later about the two incredible coaches that started our local chapter and support our kids in ways I could never imagine.
So as we went home and settled into our evening routine of dinner, homework and bed - I fell asleep thankful for a great day and the professionals that are so dedicated to our special kids.