Today I was interviewed by a pre-school teacher working to become a teacher of the visually impaired. I had a lot of fun talking to her. One of the questions she asked usually leaves me tongue-tied, but to my surprise I had a reply. She asked if my son participated in activities outside of school.
When he was younger, he was in music therapy and horseback therapy. Although these weren’t exactly “t-ball” he was still doing something fun. He was interacting with people outside of school, and trying new things. For me, this counted as extra-curricular.
As he got older, his therapies changed a bit, but his interests didn’t evolve. He moved on from music therapy, but still liked listening to Barney, Dora, and kid songs in general. Although he is now almost ten, he acts much younger not because of blindness, but because of additional disabilities. To be blunt, this means his peers have moved on to baseball, wrestling, and even math clubs…and Eddie has in many ways been left behind.
Back to the original question: what activities does Eddie participate in outside of school? As I was answering honestly today, I told this teacher about how we take him almost everywhere we go as a family. This weekend, his sister had a basketball tournament, and Eddie went along. On Wednesday, the kids’ attend a church group, and Eddie will be there, too. When we hit the grocery store, or Home Depot, or even the mall, Eddie is often with us.
As you can see by this photo of him at the games this weekend, he doesn’t necessarily fit in. He didn’t even want to sit by me, so scooted many feet away. The noise was too much, so he wore headphones. The food didn’t accommodate his unique diet, so we brought his own snacks. No, he didn’t quite fit in…but he “fit” just the same.
The reason Eddie “fits” is because we simply bring him. His peers expect him to be around, our community looks for him at events, and everyone in our small town knows him by name. These outings, though not specific to Eddie, have become his after-school activities. They may not seem like much now, but in the long run…they might make all the difference.
Because in the long run, Eddie’s peers will be getting jobs, and their parents will be running businesses. Our neighbors will be coordinating fundraisers, and local events will need volunteers. I may not know what Eddie will be doing as an adult, but I know he won’t have the chance to try anything without the support of people we know. That support comes from knowing Eddie…and they will know him because he is PRESENT.
I hope I didn’t talk the nice teacher’s ear off with this long response, but my reply ended up being something close. The truth is, Eddie participates in many things outside of school, and I should give him credit for that. It may not always be easy to include him and sometimes we’ll choose not to, but every time he joins his family, he’s taking another step towards his future.