Advocate’s Avenue… An activity for every child

Leslie McLeod

We were in my obstetrician’s office. I was sixteen weeks pregnant. My husband and I were waiting to find out if we were going to have a boy or girl. It was very clear my husband was hoping for a boy. I think every man does for the first born. They want a son to carry on the last name and the family legacy. As for me, I was just happy I was having a baby period. I always wanted to be a mommy, and I was excited. Scared, but excited.

When we learned we were having a boy, I thought about our future. I knew he would be a farm boy, whether he wanted to be or not. I could picture us going to his first t-ball game or soccer match. I thought about how fun it would be to take him to his first football game at Boothill. Maybe he would be like his father and learn how to play instruments. The possibilities of how this little guy could turn out were endless.

All of these possibilities came to a screeching halt the day we learned Sean wasn’t like most children. While we don’t limit Sean, we know what he is capable of doing and what he is not capable of doing. We push him to try new things, but not to the point where he doesn’t enjoy them. Activities where people would be yelling for him to do things, crowds cheering and a million things going on around him at once would put him into sensory overload. That alone threw any sporting activity out the window. I so badly wanted him to be a part of something. Finding something he could be a part of and enjoy was not an easy task. There are so many obstacles when deciding if an extracurricular activity is right for your child when your child has special needs. Will he understand the concept? Will other children accept his differences? Will other parents accept his differences? What if he has a meltdown? What if something hurts and he can’t tell me?

We decided when he was younger to put him in activities by himself. We thought this would be an easier way to transition him into activities that involved others. He completed swimming lessons. It generally takes a child six months to learn how to be safe in the water. It took our son 18 months. We added horse therapy to our list and he did great, until he fell off and broke his arm. That happened almost two years ago. He still questions whether or not he will break his arm again.

Our son reached the age to participate in the annual North Florida Livestock Show last year. We are a 4-H family, so we are familiar with it. We decided to go with a smaller animal for his first year. This would ease him into it, giving him an idea of what it was all about. From the time we registered him to participate to the time of the show three months later, it was obvious this activity was perfect for him. He took care of his pig every day. He grew from this experience, learning responsibility and independence. Not only did he know he had an important job, he enjoyed doing it. He was capable of doing it.

The pig missed his weight requirement by seven pounds. Luckily for us, this didn’t faze our son. The show wasn’t what was important to him. It was the experience. He doesn’t care about the ribbons and trophies. He just wants to take care of his animal and be a part of something, which he is. Because of this, we moved him up to a feeder steer; this year. Participating in the livestock show will be a big moment and milestone for our son. He has worked hard learning how to take care of his steer and in the end, he is happy. For this Mommy, that is all that matters.