autism,  cross-country,  high school,  teen years

My kids get more than 17 seconds

The girls and boys teams scores combined one them a cake at Wednesday’s meet!

This weekend Steve introduced the kids to one of the most inspirational sports movies of all time–Rudy–and while they both really enjoyed it, W was a little confused as to why Rudy, who had worked so hard at school and at practice, wasn’t ever able to play in a game until the last college game of his senior year. And even then he only got to play for 17 seconds.

17 seconds. After all of the hard work, blood, sweat, and tears of every single practice, Daniel “Rudy” Ruettiger  only got to actually play 17 seconds of a real game of college football.

After all of the heart and sweat our kids put into every single XC practice, they get to go out every Saturday and compete with their team. They’re not natural athletes. Running is a challenge for both of them, but XC gives them an opportunity to have a rewarding experience with sports, enjoy competition, and create great relationships with their peers. Steve and I are really grateful both J and W have found this sport, and here’s just a few reasons why:

Learning to work with things when they’re not going the way you want them to: W has had a lot of emotional ups and downs this season. The first part of the season, she was feeling pretty good and excited about the progress she was making. And then she started struggling. Her calf pain started to flare up and she felt like she was losing all of the progress she was making at the beginning of the season. But for as much as she struggled the last half of the season, I’m so proud of her with sticking with it. It was really hard as a parent to see J make so much progress this season and W struggle so much. This is the first time in both their lives where J has been surpassing W in progress and accomplishment, and it’s so hard as a parent to balance between cheering your heart out for your kid that struggles in every aspect of his life and keep encouraging the kid that almost everything comes naturally to.

Nevertheless, W persisted, and finished the last race of her season strong.


Mentorship from the older kids: This group of seniors on the boys team have been an incredible support since the day J started XC and are such great examples to him. They’ve been patient with his autism quirks and struggles and have cheered on his progress. J’s been running with them for three years straight now (through XC, winter running, track, and summer running). These seniors are incredible runners and humans, and when A came up to J and me on the last race of the season and told us that he’s going to miss XC meets with J, I almost started bawling. Luckily they’ll still have track season together, but J’s really going to miss these kids. These kids have made J’s three years of XC really, really special, and as a mom, I’ve been beyond grateful for their kindness and support toward J.


Friendship and Social Experiences: As a parent of a child with autism, it’s really, really hard to find and provide good social experiences for your child with autism. Friends and autism are hard. Even when kids are willing to reach out and be friends with a child with autism, it’s really hard for a child with autism to know how to be a friend back, because social skills are SO hard. J sees a psychiatrist four times a year and one of the questions she always asks J is if he feels like he has good friends. He always says yes and names off kids from the XC. XC really is one of the best places for J to make friends and be social, because it’s simultaneously a group and individual experience. J doesn’t have best friends. He doesn’t have friends who he hangs out with on weekends or talks on the phone with, and honestly, he doesn’t seem to need those kinds of friends. J’s perfect kind of friend is someone who enjoys something that he likes to do (running) and to do it together (running). XC is the perfect social and friendship fit for J.


It’s also a great place for friendship and social experiences for W. W’s found lots of great friends through XC too.


Coaches: I love all my kids coaches. They’re not only great with my kids’ individual needs but with every single kid’s needs on the team. One of the great things we’ve discovered through XC is that J really needs male teachers and mentors in his life alongside all of the fabulous and wonderful female teachers. The majority of J’s experiences with other adults outside of our home are with women–the majority of teachers at school are women and the majority of therapists J interacts with are women. They’re all fabulous, but through XC we’ve discovered that J’s coaches can reach him and teach him in ways sometimes his female mentors can’t. Autism aside–what boy doesn’t benefit from good male role models?

I’m so proud of all the hard work my kids have put into their seasons this year. They love XC. And J’s already anticipating next season. Good thing he has winter running, track, and summer running to tide him over 😉


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