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This is Lovely, But...

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I have people send me this link regularly:

I’m always so chuffed when people take the time to forward something that might be of interest to me. Have a look – this clip is a beauty. A lovely teenager with autism gets his chance on the basketball court and absolutely shines – elevated to hero status by his supportive peers cheering him on. It is truly moving.

It also annoys the crap out of me.

When I see this clip, it makes me want to scream “So what? You think the only thing a kid with autism can do is fetch water for the team?” Why, oh why, did it take so long to get that kid on the court? Why, oh why, is there such shock that he can actually play well?

I think a part of it is that a lot of assumptions are made about children with autism, the most popular being that children with autism have learning disabilities. Nowhere in the diagnostic criteria for autism is there mention of learning disabilities. Basically, if a child with autism appears to be LD, chances are the professional team needs to shape up and find more effective teaching strategies. So, it’s time to stop being shocked when you meet a kid with autism who is “smart” (whatever that means). There is no reason for that kid not to be.

I’d be fine if my kid had LDs, just so happens he dodged that bullet. But either way – autism or LDs, I’d expect him to have a shot at being on the basketball team. My kid is doing the regular Gr. 5 curriculum. He started French Immersion this year, is a helpful big brother, has fun with his friends, goes to Cub Scouts, loves the ‘Bone’ books, has a growing RESP for university, drives me crazy on his Nintendo and plays an awesome game of hockey. Note that water boy duties do not make the list. I do recognize that the kid in the video gained a lot from his role as team “manager” – it provided him with the opportunity to be involved and feel a part of the team. But there’s a lesson to be learned here about expectations. Let’s set them high, folks.

I don’t want to take away from the awesomeness of this clip – the community spirit and the raw support for this kid is out of this world. I really did cry….moments before I got a little annoyed.

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