Guest Blog From Mark
One constant around our house is sports. I used to play a lot, now it’s just the occasional round of golf or tossing the Frisbee, tho the tv is frequently tuned to whatever game is on. I’m a big believer in using sports to teach greater life lessons such as performing under pressure, teamwork and accountability. Peyton doesn’t have much of an affinity for playing sports and we haven’t pushed it on him. One sport we have encouraged him to partake in is bowling. I bowled as a kid (a fat kid at that), and always had fun, made friends and learned a few life lessons. Each game was a chance to succeed or fail, but also compete against my bowling friend Joe Pinkerton. It also taught me to set goals, gave me confidence, and strive to improve. So we signed Peyton up for a league last year and watched to see what he got out of it.
When conducting home school lessons with him, I noticed that he wasn’t really fully engaged and ready to go at 8AM. So we mandated that he do a short workout before class to get the blood flowing and stimulate his mind a little bit. It’s basically a short 10 minute workout of jumping jacks, sprints (both forward and sideways), mountain climber etc…, kind of like a warmup to a PE class. One thing I noticed was that the workouts stayed basically at the same level. The ‘mountain climber’ never get better, side sprints stayed the same. We gave him goals to increase his jumping jacks and he did. But the other parts stayed the same no matter what I tried to get him to improve.
Part of the problem is that he has very little body-position awareness. If I tell him to step with his left foot to throw, I basically wind up moving the foot for him and all the rest of him to try to get in synch. It’s very frustrating. I learned all my sports from watching and imitating others on tv, be it pitching a baseball to playing tennis. To try to counter this lack of awareness, we had him video himself with the iPad (in leau of a mirror) and then compare himself with other peoples’ videos to learn the correct technique and actions. Sort of like having a virtual mirror that he could take outside. This proved moderately successful. Repetition is the best way for him to learn, but we had to make sure that his techniques were correct, otherwise he learned the wrong way.
Then I realized a mistake I had made. We hadn’t taught him about goals. Sure, we discussed going to college someday, and even took a road trip to discuss the autism program at Texas A&M. But Peyton really only had some vague concept of why he had to study, workout and progress. We hadn’t explained Goals. People with his level of autism need most things explained to them, sometimes several times, before a concept sinks in. We had failed to instill the concept of Goals, and why you try to get better. And Pride in your work and how it is a reflection on you and your family. I had failed to realize that one of the things that comes so naturally to most of us, Goals, was a foreign concept to him.
After explaining to him about the importance of goals (along with Pride, Confidence and few other concepts for success), we have seen a marked improvement in not only his bowling, but his everyday approach to life. We not only ask him what his goals are, but how will he achieve them. Last week, we asked what his goals were for his bowling. He said that he wanted to bowl between 125-130 for his 3 games. He nailed it with a 132 avg for the 3 games. I’ve shown him how to use goals in his workout. And of course we are working on goals for his schoolwork… And we’ve encouraged him to shoot high with those goals, try for 100% on his quizzes and tests. Shoot High, you just might surprise yourself…and those who care the most about you.