This winter, my eight-year old, Molly, has been playing on a club basketball team. Upon signing her up, we knew we’d be travelling on Saturdays to games throughout the county. We also realized we’d be introducing Eddie to a new environment of loud gyms, sitting on bleachers, lots of kids, dribbling basketballs, and cheering crowds. Since Eddie can be adverse to loud noises, we were a little nervous about how this would turn out.
So far, he has been to two games and has done amazing. He sits in the bleachers (with snack in hand) and takes in all the sensory input a basketball game has to offer. We bring noise-cancelling headphones, but he must feel adventurous at times because he occasionally takes them off. As long as his younger sister is entertaining herself elsewhere, he is happy to sit with us until the final buzzer sounds.
Since he was doing so well enjoying the minor league (very minor) players, we decided to raise the bar. Friday night, we took him to a high school girls’ basketball game. Molly’s team was playing a mini-game at halftime and we thought bringing the whole family was the way to go. A high school game is quite a step-up from the club games. The elements are the same, but magnified by ten. On top of typical game sounds, there were also a dozen cheerleaders and a pep band.
When we stepped into the gym, Eddie quickly covered his ears. He had a hard time walking with his cane and trying to put one hand on each side of his head. After seeing his initial response, I was scanning for the nearest exits. Our friends were at the top of the bleachers, of course, so we made our way up there. I only hoped the noise level would stay loud, so a screaming 6-yr-old could be evacuated in the event of a sensory overloud emergency without causing a massive scene.
Thankfully, all my fears were unfounded. We made it through the entire 1 ½ hour game. Eddie made good use of his own coping strategies. He covered his ears when needed, buried his head in our laps for extra protection, and generally took in his surroundings. There were moments of laughter, pep band dancing, and often he had the look of “Where the heck am I?” but didn’t protest once.
As usual, Eddie surprised us. I was so glad we included him in the social outing. Yes, it is easier to let him stay home in peaceful surroundings, but that isn’t the life I want for him. I want our neighbors, friends, and school community to know Eddie and to interact with him. Only by attending social events as a family, can we help him grow in our community. Now that we’ve conquered basketball, who knows what will be next? I can’t wait to pick out our next sensory adventure.