Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Don't Keep Sports Off Limits

Michael John Carley is the Founder of GRASP, and the author of "Asperger's From the Inside-Out" (Penguin/Perigee), "The Last Memoir of Asperger Syndrome" (TBD), and numerous articles. In 2000, he and one of his two sons were diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome. 
When you grow up with any kind of developmental disability it means that you do not grow as everyone else does. Shut out of the rituals of your peers -- the "developmentally-appropriate" experiences others refer to -- you will grow in different, often unseen ways. We positive types like to mention that there are some areas where you might find yourself surprisingly ahead of your peers. But, as we all know, not only will the areas where we are behind get the most notice (as that is what others will more clearly see), being in any kind of minority makes life harder, not just "different."
For autism spectrum kids who are better able to navigate greater society, sports are one of those rituals. But unlike fellow proponents of "more athletics for spectrum kids," my concerns don't rest solely with the exercise benefit. In 10 years of running the world's largest membership organization for adults (GRASP), I saw inestimable damage because people had grown up terrified of competition. In some cases, with folks whose ages range from the 20s to the 80s, I even saw a commitment -- rather than a conditioning -- towards avoiding rivalry. They were so determined to avoid creating, or engaging in any kind of battle with their fellow humans that they wouldn't even utter the words, "I can do better," which, as we all know, is wherein we compete against ourselves.

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