anxiety,  autism,  cross-country,  high school,  middle school

XC boys are the best

On our way to Wilmar for the XC meet.

J’s paras have a theory about short weeks. Short weeks mean trouble. The kids had no school Friday because it was a teacher development day and sure enough, it’s been a rough week. This meds change/no XC/short school week/who knows what else is up complications have been hard. The kind of week where Steve had to make a trip up to the school to help J sort out his behavioural issues.

The last few weeks of XC have been hard too—not in the behavioural issue way, but J gets frustrated that he can’t run. I know he knows on some level that he needs it to make him feel even-keel. One morning he woke up and the first question he asked me was if he could run on the treadmill (because it’s not running XC which he knows he can’t do right now). I had to explain to him that running on the treadmill still counts as running, and he still needs to keep off his bad leg until the pain goes away.

Even though J has still been involved with the team by biking alongside the boys while they run, it’s not the same for him. He doesn’t have teammates cheering him along the run when things get tough for him (and biking hasn’t nearly been as physically tough). He’s just not going through the same mental/physical they are. But these boys are amazing kids. They still try to make J feel included—they still come over to him after they’ve run their 4, 5, or 6 miles, themselves out of breath, all sweaty and tired, and give him a high 5 and tell him he’s done a good job on his bike.

The XC boys are still so amazing with J despite his rough two weeks. They are patient when J has a rough day at school and feels the need to tell a bunch of them over and over his litany of obsessional anxieties.  Friday the team had a pre-meet practice in the middle of the day. Everyone worked hard airing out tents and tarps for the meet, and while the middle schoolers were waiting for the high schoolers to figure out some issues with the large tent, they started tossing around a Frisbee. J was standing next to me and said, “I’d like to play Frisbee too.”

Just as I was reminding him that he needed to verbalize that to the boys and walk over to the group, one of the boys invited J over to play. J isn’t the best Frisbee player. He has a hard time anticipating when it’s his turn to catch the Frisbee, and his throwing skills aren’t the best. But this boy would cue J by saying, “J! I’m throwing to you!” This boy is a grade younger than J, and hasn’t had the experience of figuring out how to interact with J like the other kids in his grade, but he intuitively knew how to help him participate in the group. Since I’ve had a really emotional week with already with J, I couldn’t help but tear up a little on the sidelines that the boys were really trying to get him involved and cheered J on when J threw a good throw or made a catch.

After their run, the boys went out to pizza. J decided he wanted to sit by some of the big high schoolers and did so without asking to sit beside them. I’m sure J was talking about his hard week with them (for the 100th time) or his other obsessions he likes to talk about, but even the big kids were great and patient with him.

Out of all the years in raising an autistic child, these middle school years have got to be some of the hardest. Sure, the toddler years are hard because your autistic child has an extra hard time communicating what is going on with you, and you’re new to the whole autism world and experience. The elementary years are tough because that autism world is trying to interact with the mainstream world. But these middle school years include all of those past challenges and add a whole new social awareness and hormonal aspect on top of it all. Not to mention you’ve been doing the autism parenting gig for a dozen or so years and, well, it’s hard not to feel burned out.

I had that burn-out feeling by the end of the week and that Friday, I watched J—the most well-behaved J we’ve had all week—and couldn’t help but cringe at how awkward he can be. He left the pizza place with pizza sauce smeared all over his neon workout shirt, and all over the table because he still has those darn sensory issues and has to both touch everything on his plate before he eats it and at the same time can’t stand to have his hands dirty and has to wipe his fingers immediately anywhere before remembering he has a napkin. During his bike ride with the team, I was going crazy because J doesn’t realize that when the gears on his bike are grinding that he needs to shift his gears up or down. Even when I remind him that he needs to do it, he doesn’t know which way. I’m sure J’s bike’s constant grinding and clicking was driving everyone else crazy too. It’s awkwardly painful to hear his voice (because it’s been changing for MONTHS now) switch octaves three times when he was thanking the coaches for taking them to the pizza place.

I’m not sure if J realizes what an amazing group of boys he gets to hang out with every day after school. He’s only got a week and a half of the season left and many of these awesome kids are moving on and graduating. They’re not just amazing with J—they’re amazing kids in their own right: academically, physically, even serving in the community. I wish J was socially aware enough to appreciate those kids in that way too.

W at the Wilmar meet. It was a tough course with a ton of big hills.


I’ll be honest. J’s struggles are hard to love, especially after the week we’ve had. But when other people–other kids–can do be patient and include him when I’m having a rough time him—geez, I’m really thankful for that.

This week’s meet was in Wilmar, MN. I’m posting a few pictures from that trip. It was a gorgeous fall day, and it’s really neat to see all the small towns in Minnesota and North Dakota.




See? The prairie can be gorgeous too in the fall.


Please follow and like us:
Comments Off on XC boys are the best