Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Showing him the world...

My son, PJ, has Autism. Diagnosed at age two, it has changed our lives in so many ways. We have been lucky to find activities for PJ that offer him special supports to accommodate for his needs while still allowing him the experience that so many neruo-typical children have- the chance to participate in performance groups and sports.

Cheer leading, by far, has been our biggest coup as parents. Something we stumbled on by accident, cheer has allowed PJ to blossom in ways I never imagined possible. At the time, our thought was that cheer was social, athletic, and vocal, all things that PJ needed to work on. We figured at worst, he would jump around, have a great time, and meet some great people while he worked on his skills.

What we didn't expect was for PJ to fall in love with performing. The same child who sometimes struggles with eye contact came alive on stage. We could visibly see a light turn on on his head the first time he heard applause and understood it was for him. By the end of the season, my little showman was playing for the crowds! It was like nothing I had ever seen or dreamed of, and such a gift for both of us!

Soccer has been another fantastic experience. PJ has the opportunity to learn about the game and play on a team. Each week, young volunteers are on hand to guide the players through stretches, drills, exercises. Soccer is well beyond my sporting capabilities, and I am so thankful to the teens that come out to help my son and his teammates. This year, PJ has two outstanding boys who work with him each week. They patiently guide him through the basics of the game, cheering when he does well and correcting him when he needs more work. They also spend a lot of time chasing him all over the field, bless their hearts!

PJ has tried horseback riding, gymnastics, dance, art, and a host of other activities, all offered by teachers who want to make they things they love accessible to children with special needs, and every single pieces of their love that we have tried has been a gift. When PJ was first diagnosed, my biggest fear was that he would miss out on all of those things, and I am endlessly grateful to the people who have opened these doors for him.

But our best day, by far, was the day PJ got to try surfing. He has always loved the ocean, and thanks to the amazing generosity of a group called Waves of Impact, PJ got to experience the ocean from the waves to the shore, instead of the other way around. I am, in general, a nervous mama, but I did not have one ounce of fear as the volunteers whisked PJ off and out into the water to ride the waves. PJ was out there for about 45 minutes, and during that time I took 334 pictures of my son as he smiled bigger and brighter than I have ever seen him. PJ loves being on stage, and he loves soccer, but there was something about the feeling of his beloved ocean from atop that board that clearly was the experience of a lifetime! He was brave, happy, adventurous and joyful. He was the best I have ever seen my sweet, smart, funny son, and it's engraved in my heart.

Thanks to the people who give to my son so effortlessly, my biggest fear has been averted- the fear that Autism would cause PJ to miss so much of what the world has to offer. At age four he has already tried out so many things, and we can't wait to see what's ahead!

Brie Latini is a Northeast Bloggers rep for the Garden State and loves all things coffee, Flyers, books and Honey Boo Boo! Brie shares her stories at her personal blog, {...a breezy life}, and has been featured at Mamalode, Jersey Moms Blog, Metrokids Magazine Online and South Jersey Mom Magazine!
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  1. what a great post, thank you so much Brie for sharing, I got chills reading about how much PJ has benefited from cheerleading and soccer, and seeing his face so bright from surfing made my day!

  2. Call me biased, but he is the cutest kid in the world. And that has nothing to do with the fact that I am his favorite Auntie :-)
    That said, now that he is in school full time, I don't get to see him as often as I like. But I do know that all of these activities have allowed him to grow leaps and bounds, and every time I do see him, there is some kind of new skill, new "tricks" as I call then, and I makes me so very proud of my best dude!

  3. Thank you for sharing this post.

    My 4 year old God-son has Autism. I want to make sure the world is open to him as well! He's a smart little guy & he impresses me & my husband nearly every time we speak with him. (His family lives in Washington & we're in Massachusetts so it's tough to have such distance.)

  4. Thank you! We have been so lucky to find activities and programs that can include my best guy! It must be so much fun to talk with your Godson, even if you can't see him as often as you might like! Sending him all of my love and good wishes, and thanks again for your words!

  5. Yes, he is aware of ALL THE PEOPLE now!!! LOL!!

  6. Thank you so much! This is a link to a video of his very first cheer performance! You can literally see the moment when we went from just doing the moves to showing off for the crowd!


    Thanks so much for reading and for your words!

  7. oh my gosh this is the cutest thing I've seen today!!! thank you so much for sharing this video :)

  8. This is so awesome! PJ is one lucky - and loved - little boy!

  9. Hello cute lady! Love this. Pinned. We couldn't think of anyone better to party with. We hope to see you tonight at 7 pm. http://loulougirls.blogspot.com/
    Happy Monday! Lou Lou Girls

  10. Kudos to you for helping PJ see the world.

  11. Thanks so much!! I almost sold him to a gypsy when he threw a fit at speech therapy today, but yes. TOTALLY LOVED, LOL!! <3

  12. This is inspiring, especially with those who may still be struggling with a diagnosis and fearing the worst. PJ has already done a ton of things I have never even tried and I'm 39. Good for you for helping make the experiences possible. Sounds like he is making the most of them!

  13. He is a pretty amazing kid!! We had no idea what our future would be when he was diagnosed. We struggle with so many things, but on the whole, parenting our son is a joy! Thanks so much for your kind words!


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