Something amazing happened today. Something that has me wanting to climb the highest mountain bringing with me the loudest trumpets. Because, baby, I want to celebrate.
Raising an autistic child can be extremely isolating. It’s difficult to navigate the playground when your kid doesn’t pick up on social cues, has limited verbal speech, and thinks everyone wants to play with him and hey, that stick in your hand is mine! Why can’t I just throw sand and laugh and run into the street? Sunshine and awesome and chasing everyone until we lose our breaths. The world is my son’s playground, and the rules of it just don’t compute. He is unpredictable and easily overwhelmed by the noises and high energy of play. So I’m there to run interference and hover. To push and pull and control the meltdowns. I’m holding him back, climbing the slide, and running in the sand to get to him before that other kid laughs at him. I have never taken my son somewhere and been able to just stand back and let him be a messy, funny, hyper young boy. Phoenix has never had that chance.
Today he did.
A.skate, is a non-profit foundation that gives kids with autism, kids like mine, the chance to be part of a social experience. And they do it through skateboarding. Today they held a clinic here in Orlando at the Vans Skatepark. And I have to be honest. I was nervous. I was puffing out breaths, praying to whoever could hear me, needing so badly for this to go well. I needed for Phoenix to have one day, one hour, where we could go somewhere and he could just be.
Walking in I was greeted by the nicest people. I can’t express that enough. The kindness and that moment of understanding knowing we’ve just entered a place of no judgment. The volunteers that worked with my son and nephew were the most awesome, most patient people and made me want to raise my hands in relief and celebration. Everyone treated my son like he was any other kid out there. They smiled and high-fived and didn’t look at him with a question in their eyes. And for someone raising an autistic child in a world of neurotypical kids, I can not come up with the words to fully explain what that meant to me. He put on his helmet without a fuss, he followed his guy and ran him ragged, but he laughed, and he ran and I watched with a lightened heart.
Today, thanks to A.skate, my boy walked out with his very own skateboard deck, out of breath, with a smile on his face. He got to play, run, chase and be himself and I felt just a little bit stronger for this battle we’re waging and a whole lot grateful for the people out there fighting the good fight for kids like mine. Giving them a day, an hour to just let go and rock out.
“Autism, like skateboarding, can be unpredictable, and often times unruly. We embrace the parts of autism that are hard to understand and give kids an outlet that is free of rules or judgment.” -A.skate