This blog post is by Phyllis Raja. She left her career in technology in the financial district once sher started her family. She have three boys..."my three sons", Adam age 11, Alex age 10 and Byron age 8. Both Adam and Byron are "on the spectum". In addition to Little League baseball, Adam brought a love of NASCAR racing to their family and they are all now huge fans!
All too often lately in the news, we hear of handicapped and learning disabled children being bullied or excluded. This made me feel compelled to write of an opposite experience in our awesomely supportive community of Larchmont/Mamaroneck.
I have 3 sons, the eldest and the youngest being on the spectrum. Adam, age 11 is more severely affected. He has delays, is highly distractible, is very happy and friendly and is very enthusiastic about sports and NASCAR. Alex, age 10, is regular ed. Byron, age 8, is only mildly affected. .
When springtime came around, my boys' thoughts turned to baseball although they had never played on teams before. There was no issue for Alex or Byron who would do well with their peers. But for Adam, here is my dilemma...do I bring him to Miracle League which is sports games for handicapped children or do I challenge him with what he calls a "real" baseball team in Little League? The decision was not mine to make however. Little League is not obligated or required to make exceptions to the rules of age based team play.
I wrote to the commissioner of LMLL, explained that Adam is small for his age and could do well socially and physically with kids 2 to 3 years younger. I received a reply almost instantly. Yes, absolutely we can place him on a team with younger kids. The coaches of his team, the Firebirds, were filled in about Adam and while they were nervous and curious not knowing what to expect, this was never apparent to me, to Adam or to the team. Their love of kids and love of the game just shone through at each practice and each game. They taught their team to be cohesive, caring and supportive. They taught the kids that having FUN is the most important part of being on the team, they taught the kids to look out for each other in a caring brotherly manner. The Firebirds knew to remind Adam (and each other at times!) to pay attention to the ball, to not throw the bat, to stop looking for "flutterbies" (butterflies) in the outfield and to RUN!! when he hit the ball. To congratulate each other for successes, to console each other for goof ups.
Adam hit quite an impressive number of base hits during the season. He brought home a few runs and played really impressively for ANY kid who is new to the game. He would be so shocked when he hit the ball that he would just freeze with mouth open till he heard us all yell Run Adam! RUN!!! and he DID!! The Firebirds made it to the division championships. They came in second place for the season! Adams pride in himself is just boundless and his Little League trophy is his most prized posession...more prized even than his autograped Kyle Busch M&Ms car photo!
This story is not about Adam. Rather, its about these very special volunteer coaches and organizers who have not had and do not ask for special training or considerations to include and coach handicapped or LD children. They are just included as a matter of course and teach their teams to be accepting, tolerant, compassionate and caring kids. They all think that they did nothing special. David Cohn, Bruce Albert, Mark Kingsley, Scotty Argenta...special people like these are what makes this community so very extraordinary. How blessed are we to live here.
As an end note, the Larchmont Mamaroceck basketball league just began registration. I wrote a similar request to the commisioner to allow Adam to join a younger team and within 10 minutes received a response...'Absolutely we can make this work, we will contact you soon with details". So Adam will play on a "real" basketball team too.