Shabby Miss Jenn

Monday, March 12, 2012

Play Ball!

It's official.  I'm a "T-ball Mom"!

I put my fears aside, bit the bullet, and signed Wade up to play T-ball for our local youth league.  I signed him up online, and there wasn't any space for comments regarding special accommodations.  So, I anxiously waited as I anticipated what the conversation was going to sound like once I talked to the coach about Wade using a wheelchair.  I was pleasantly surprised at his lack of "surprise" when I told him that Wade has a disability and that he uses a wheelchair and communication device.  I let him know that I had absolutely no expectations except that I wanted Wade to have fun and be around kids his age, in his community.  I explained that I really didn't know what this was going to look like, but we could all figure it out together along the way.  After all, it's *just* T-ball, right? 

As we drove up to the practice field two weeks ago, I nervously wondered what I had gotten us into.  This may be "just T-ball", but these little guys had bat bags and cleats and helmets!  My mom, Curtis and I cautiously walked up to the team while we explained to Wade what was happening.  He just kept shaking his head "no".  I questioned my decision and wondered if this was a mistake.  As we stood there trying to figure out what to do next, Curtis realized he knew one of the dads.  Thank goodness!  It broke the tension a bit, and we spent the next 30 minutes or so practicing hitting the ball off the stand.  That was the easy part.  It didn't take too much improvising to figure out how to make batting work.  We also made note to bring his KidWalk gait trainer the next week so he could stand while batting.

The creative part came when the team started practicing in the field.  The coach would hit a grounder to each kid, and they would stop it and throw it to the assistant coach.  I watched a bit from the sidelines as Curtis stood out in the field with everyone else.  After a little time passed, I went out and we decided that another little boy would take a turn with Wade out in the field.  When the coach hit the ball, Curtis would push Wade and stop the ball with his wheelchair.  Then, the other little boy would get the ball and throw it to the assistant coach.  It worked like a charm!  Wade kept saying, "Again.  Again."  It was so exciting to see him loving being out there.  While he waited his turn, Curtis helped him play catch with another kid.  Curtis would position the ball in Wade's hand, then move his arm in a throwing motion.  The kid would catch it, then throw it back to Wade.  After a few times, Wade was actually gripping the ball by himself, and Curtis was helping him throw by just moving his arm.  So Wade was actually releasing the ball on his own!

At the end of practice, we were able to tell the other parents a little bit about Wade and that we just want to have fun.  We also explained that we welcome any ideas on how to make this work for everyone on the team while also expressing that we're not easily offended by any questions.  Kids and adults are very curious, and I'd rather be open about everything instead of having them wonder what in the world we're doing.

Once we loaded back into the van, I felt like a huge weight had been lifted off my shoulders.  We branched out and participated in a typical four year old activity, and it all worked out.  I was so relieved that Wade was accepted.  But more than that, I was thrilled that Wade had fun and enjoyed playing with the other kids.

Our second practice was last week, and we broke out the KidWalk.  The kids practiced hitting the ball and running the bases.  Wade had a great time, but he has to work on patience and turn taking quite a bit!  He didn't like waiting his turn in the line up.  But how exciting is that?!?!  Every four and five year old has a hard time waiting their turn.  We're learning social skills in a natural environment!  Woohoo!

I was able to capture a little bit of base running on my phone.  Wade's feet aren't really touching the ground, but he's moving them!

Practice number three is tomorrow evening.  Team shirts will be given out.  Wade will then be a certified Saginaw Ranger!