Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Initiative

Parent/Teacher interviews.  Again.  So soon.  At least that's how it feels.

Overall things that been relatively peaceful since Christmas break.  I didn't think I'd have much to discuss with Jared's teachers until about a week before interviews.  Then came the stories.

So and so called me gay.
So and so called me a pervert.
So and so called me a retard.

Of course these things don't sit well with me and to add to the mess, when I asked Jared's brother why he didn't complain when he heard these things to someone, Jordan replied, "They don't do anything about that anyway."

That's an entry for another blog, but for this interview it was very relevant.

I went in and Jared's teachers talked about how amazed they were at how far he has come since September. They talked about what he doesn't do as much of anymore and what he is able to do now.  Then they told me about a list Jared worked really hard on in class and brought to one of his teachers when he finished it.

It was a Bully List.  Jared had a list of about 10 children with numbers ranging from 1 to 4 next to their names.  He explained to his teacher that he had ranked these kids based on how strongly he felt they were bullying him.  So his teacher took the time to discuss the rankings and learn why certain numbers were given to certain children and what behaviors were actually behind those numbers.  Eventually they whittled it down to four names that Jared took down to a member of the administration.  They discussed the names and in the end, some boys were hauled down to the office for a little chat.

I was not involved.  This was Jared.  His initiative.  His thought process.

He does not do this at home.  I don't think this came easily to him by any stretch of the imagination, but it does give me some hope.

And this act is a huge leap in progress since forever.  And it doesn't mean resolutions will always come from this kind of exercise, but wouldn't it be nice if he could keep it up.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

When Winning Wins

Saturday is basketball day at our house.  Jordan, Jackson, and Jared are all participating this year.  The main component is skill development and then game play in an intramural kind of situation.

Jordan and Jared are on the same team.  This is Jared's first year.  He SO wanted to play.  I SO wanted him to play and didn't want it to be a bad experience.  We did our usual.....prep him, prep the coaches, prep Jordan.  We did all we could do and now we observe.

In the 10 minutes of the game I managed to see while I was playing taxi, this is what I witnessed:  No one wanting to pass the ball to Jared.  When given the option to pass to Jared or another open player, one of his coaches always yelled to pass to the other player.  When there is an inbound pass to make Jared always wants to take it.  Why? It's one of the few times he gets to handle the ball.  This is a regular occurrence for him and he doesn't like it, but he seems to understand it comes with the territory so he does his best to play where he can.

Contrast that with Jordan who's at least 5'7" and runs the floor like a giraffe in comparison to his little teammates.  Jordan gets the ball.  He scores baskets.  Even the other parents and grandparents watch him with a little more eagerness than the other players who are not their offspring.

Now, contrast that with what I witnessed in Jackson's game.  The opposing team had a player with Downs Syndrome and a helper running along side him.  He played almost the whole game.  The kids quickly learned that they needed to go easier with him.  They let him bounce the ball.  When he made it to the opposite end of the court, his coach raised him into the air and Jackson's coach kept giving this little guy the ball to shoot until he made a basket.  Every time he missed, if one of the kids got the rebound, they gave the ball to the coach.  All the parents cheered loudly.  It brought tears to my eyes.

So here are my questions:  When does that attitude change?  When does winning, able bodied, and able minded come to mean more than making someone feel valued and everyone else to be a part of something bigger than a game?  When does a chemical imbalance, a genetic or chromosome flaw, an improperly developed brain, a physical or mental challenge, become seen as liabilities we don't want to deal with? We talk about inclusion, but does that mean inclusion until it's something really important to us like winning?  If Jared's disabilities were visibly dominant like Downs Syndrome, would it have made a difference?

It seems to me that society can be a lot of talk, but often times we behave decades behind the talk.  Sure inclusion is a good thing, but in reality we act like it's better and easier for "those" people to be invisible and stay out of our games be they athletic or general life.

Now I get the whole winning part.  I love it when my boys' teams do well.  I love to see Jordan score over half his teams points.  I love to see Jackson smile as he runs up and down the court.  I love to see Jared be an awesome defensive player and make some of the coolest bounce passes (like today's between the legs of an opponent).  I love it when they win.  I am a competitive individual.  But today I witnessed 11 and 12 year olds and their coaches play ball at the expense of a fellow player just like they do most weeks, and I witnessed 9 year olds and their coaches give one player the time of his life and probably more joy to his parents than you can imagine.

Where do these kids play when the regular leagues have no use for them?  I'm not just talking about the disabled ones.  How about the ones who just aren't as athletically gifted or physically equal?

No amount of athletic or intellectual ability will ever compensate for true and good character.  I guess another one of my questions is, if winning is so important then where is the line drawn in the sand?  Next year is Jackson going to play with a team that is all inclusive or inclusive but with limits?

I guess time will tell.