(This is Michael Lorenzen, guest posting for Julie. She is in the Land of Confusion today.)
On Sunday, my nine year old son who is on the spectrum and I participated as a team in a Special Olympics Bowling Tournament in Mt. Pleasant, Michigan. The event was hosted by Chippewa Lanes which is right next to the CMU campus and the Michigan headquarters of Special Olympics. It was a long day but very worthwhile.
For several months, my son and I had been going to the bowling alley on Sunday mornings to practice. This was scheduled by Special Olympics and there was no cost to us. We usually got two games in each time we went. We both started weak (neither of us having much bowling experience) but got better quickly. My son was rolling a 10 his first few games but actually managed a 72 at one point. I started in the 40s and can now break a 100. A little practice helps a lot!
This Sunday was different. Instead of two games, we bowled four. In addition, breakfast and lunch were provided. There was also an awards ceremony afterwards. We got to the bowling alley at 8 and did not leave until after 3:30. This was a big change in the bowling routine and I am happy to say my son did a good job adjusting. I explained what was going to happen and he was able to cope with it. (Had this happened a year or two ago, I would have had to have dealt with an autistic tantrum.)
After the first two games, there was a long wait for lunch. My son did OK with this but grumbled repeatedly how hungry he was. Finally, the pizzas were delivered. The Special Olympians in wheelchairs were served first. After that, the coordinator asked that all the little kids go next. My son (one of the littlest Special Olympians present) jumped up and yelled, "I am a little kid!" He jumped to the front of the line. I love that assertiveness.
After finishing the fourth game, we had another long wait for the awards ceremony. I let him play a few video games and he even played his first two pinball games. He was slow on the concept of using the flippers but got it before the second game ended. We will be working some more on this.
After I ran out of quarters, we went and waited in the room were the awards were going to be given out. It took a while and my son got bored. Another nine year old boy who my son knows was also in the room. They played some and also grabbed bananas which were left out as snacks. At this fateful moment, someone turned on some music. Both boys ran to the what passed as a dance floor. They began dancing and as they did so they swung the bananas around in the air. It was bananatainment and the crowd loved it. Both boys were hams and they lived it up before they were finally asked by their respective parent to sit down.
My son and I took two awards for finishing third and fourth. I honestly am not sure in what. There were a variety of scoring events including team, partner, and individual. This was our first Special Olympic Bowling Tourney and I frankly did not get the rules of the events. There were no handy instructions sheets either. However, everyone seemed to win at least two awards and my son was delighted to go up front and pick up our certificates.
I am very pleased at how well my son dealt with the competition. It was a challenge for him and he performed admirably. It was a good father/son day and I am grateful to Special Olympics of Michigan for providing us this opportunity. I am also thankful to Chippewa Lanes. Next up, Special Olympics track and field this week on the campus of CMU. My son is already excited.