We learn much from our formative elementary school years, probably more than we realize. I have written previously about how it was in elementary school that I learned about disabilities, and the negative way that some children react to them. But there’s something else that elementary school taught me about living with disabilities, something that I only recently comprehended.
At recess and during P.E. we often played kickball, among other things. It was baseball without the bats and gloves. Not having much athletic ability beyond being a reasonably fast runner, I was among the last few chosen for teams when everyone was required to play. I couldn’t kick very far. It really didn’t bother me, since I had no desire to play. But what I remember most was when one of the heralded elementary school jocks – the future varsity team members – came up to “bat,” every one of the fielders started to back up, giving him a wide berth. These eight-year-old, would-be high school stars could kick far. The fielders called out to each other, “Go deep,” in a respectful, cautionary tone. That would be the only way they could hope to catch his fly ball. I learned early on that in some circumstances, to handle the difficulties that life throws your way, you have to pull out all the stops.
Life with autism is like that. If we hope to deal with the lifelong challenges of autism, we have to “go deep.” We have to tap our reserves, focus, and be prepared. We learn to anticipate, listen to our intuition, and be aware. But we also have to go deep within ourselves to summon our strength and find our courage. I may not have been able to kick the ball very far, but I learned how to catch it when it was coming my way. Sometimes, you have to back up to catch a fly.