Tuesday, July 15, 2008

DCMM: Sometimes Failure Begets Success

Sometimes something that seems like a failure turns out to be a success, just depending on the way you look at it. And when you have a child with autism, as I do, even little successes see big.

To explain: My oldest son, Sam, has been going to karate class twice a week since last October. On his very first day in class I came to the conclusion that karate just might be the thing for my then four-year-old autistic son, Jack. To Jack's delight, my husband and I decided that when Jack turned five, we would enroll him in karate.

Jack's 5th birthday was in May, and his first class was July 1. Unfortunately, no matter how many people agreed that it might be just the thing for him, Jack didn't take to the class. By halfway through his fourth class, he was done. He couldn't pay attention, he was crying, and he was claiming his stomach hurt.

I don't know if it wasn't as fun as he thought it would be or if he had trouble staying still and following directions. Maybe he only really wanted to do the parts when he could run around in circles and jump over and through things.

Maybe he just wanted the uniform.

Whatever it was, it just is not the place for him right now. He doesn't want to go back, and because we were taking advantage of a "siblings are free in July" offer, we're going to respect that. We'll let him stop going. We'll try again another time.

But today, our first day back since Jack started sobbing mid-class and insisted on leaving, something great happened.

This afternoon Jack made it clear that he didn't want to be in the class, but then he spent twenty minutes or so composing a note for Mr. RJ, his instructor. He typed it himself on the computer (using some creative spelling) and making sure it was printed out just right. And just so you know, Jack doesn't often make notes or pictures for people outside his immediate circle—and it's hard to get into that circle.

We walked into the karate studio for Sam's class and immediately saw another instructor, Mr. N. Mr. N held the door for us. Jack said, "Mr. RJ?" Mr. N pointed toward Mr. RJ. Jack walked up to another instructor, Mr. J, and said, "Mr. RJ?" Mr. J pointed to Mr. RJ.

(Apparently Jack has trouble distinguishing people from each other. This is not a total surprise to me, but: Hello! Wake up call!)

Anyway, after finally locating his target, Jack told Mr. RJ a meandering, convoluted joke without a punchline and then presented him with his typewritten story. Mr. RJ, who is an amazing young guy, gave Jack his full attention throughout and thanked him profusely for the story.

It was absolutely lovely to watch. Because Jack was totally outside his comfort zone doing that, and when he put himself out there, the object of his attention gave him attention back, which is often not the case.

Maybe Jack didn't learn karate. Maybe he didn't immediately take to it and find some of the structure and direction that he needs. But he did form a connection to a new person and to a place. And any connections that Jack builds are miraculous and wonderful.

So maybe Jack's brief foray into karate wasn't such a failure after all.

Original DC Metro Moms Blog post.

Jean documents many successes and failures daily at Stimeyland.

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