Before this past Saturday afternoon, we had one experience with Special Olympics.
Clay was in middle school. The teacher told my wife to show up for the opening ceremonies at 9 a.m., not realizing that Clay’s event wouldn’t take place until the afternoon. A hot day at the local high school football stadium. Swarming crowds. A blaring marching band. General chaos. You can do the math.
My wife lasted about an hour (thanks to a nearby John Deere tractor that drew Clay like a magnet) before heading home, where the overwhelmed Olympian fled to the safety of his bed and fell asleep. Three years later the scars are still raw.
This year, Clay has been training with two buddies – Jack and Sam – freshmen at the high school. Seemed like we owed it to them and his teacher to give it another shot. So, around 12:30 Saturday afternoon, we trudged over to the high school football stadium, armed with the knowledge that Clay’s two events were around 1 p.m.
Clay’s training buddies met us at the gate and headed off with him to wait for the start of the race.
We visited with his teacher and the parents of other participants, and, before we knew it, the 25 meters were ready to begin.
Clay didn’t so much run as hop and skip. Looked like the Easter Bunny on hot pavement. Hey, whatever it takes to get to the finish line. Afterwards, he was all smiles.
Of course, as with all great, but humble athletes, he had to endure the medal ceremony.
And congratulations from his teacher, Ms. Morris.
Then, it was time to do it all over again for the 50 meter sprint.
After the second award ceremony, we said our goodbyes and thank yous (especially to Jack and Sam, whose respectful and caring approach to Clay was amazing) and were on our way home.
Event complete, start to finish, in less than one hour. Everyone home and happy. Veteran autism parents at work.
What did the little guy think of all this? My wife cornered him with his iPad as soon as he finished a celebratory hot dog.
“Did you have fun?”
“yes, ” he typed.
“What was your favorite part?”
“seeing everyone ”
“What do you think of your buddies?”
“they were awesome. ”
“Would you like to do Special Olympics next year?”
“Anything you want to add?”
“Stop asking questions”
Time to give the little fellow some down time. Don’t tell him, but training picks up again next week.
Oh, if you haven’t already, please vote for Life with Clay at Babble, an award-winning Web site for parents owned by Disney, The site is holding a contest for the 30 best autism blogs. If you care to cast a vote for this blog, it would be much appreciated. You can vote here or click on the Vote for Me box on your right. Then, find Life with Clay (currently on the second page of the list) and click “I like this”