Monday, May 08, 2006

The Not So Special Olympics

Before I start I just want to say right up front that I know that everyone's heart is in the right place and I don't mean to sound mean or ungrateful but...

Mikey's gym teacher at AHRC thought that Mikey could participate in a couple of events in the Special Olympics. We thought that this was a fantastic idea and would be a lot of fun. It turned out to be a fantastic idea but not a lot of fun.

The school where the Olympics are being held doesn't have a very big parking lot but they arranged to use the parking lot of a corporate park and bus everyone over to the school. This was actually well organized. We get to the school and the bus drops us off. But they drop us off on one side of the school but the path to the track where the events are being held is on the other side of the school. Not a big deal except that Michel's parents are with us and he has a bad heart and chronic bronchitis and she has a bad knee. Then we realize that you have to walk down a huge hill to get down to the field. OK, so here we are at Special Olympics and the field is poorly accesible? Maybe this location wasn't a good choice to hold the events.

Anyway, we get down there and they assign three very nice girls to help with Mikey. They are all high school seniors and they are all volunteers. The only problem is that they have had no training, no explanation of what is expected of them, no idea how to handle a child with autism. They mostly just follow me around. So we get where we are supposed to be with a few minutes to spare before the parade is supposed to start. Michel, Beth, and Michel's parents are waiting in the stands while Mikey, the girls, and I are waiting for the parade into the main area to start. And we wait. And we wait. And if I tell you that Mikey is not good at waiting would you be surprised? We waited for an hour and Mikey is bored, tired (we had to wake him up early to be there on time), and misses his nana and pop-pop. Finally we march in and they want us to stand in the middle of the field and listen to a bunch of local politicians give speeches! At this point I am ready to scream and while Mikey is doing his best to be good this is asking a huge amount from a 9 year old boy.

So Mikey and I just wander off to where we think his event will be. Michel finds us and steers us into the right direction. We get there about the time the National Anthem is playing but they are still not ready for Mikey's first event, the 50 meter dash. I am exhausted because Mikey mostly wants to be carried everywhere plus my back and right knee are killing me. Mikey is tired, bored, and ready to go home. Finally, someone shows up with lists of names on multiple pieces of paper but they are the wrong list and he wants everyone to line up. Mikey sits in the chair next to him and hits him.

The problem appears to be that he has no clue how to handle children with disabilites. He seems to expect a bunch of children with autism to neatly line up and follow his instructions while he looks up names on a bunch of lists. One woman told us that the events she has been to, they just line up all the kids and have them run and worry about names later. They are making this very difficult for the kids by dragging it out and wasting whatever ability to keep themselves under control that they have. Finally we just decide that we have all reached our limit and we call it quits. Mikey gladly went over to nana and gave her a huge hug and then he sat on her lap and put his head on her chest.

Getting out was another problem. Remember the hill we had to walk down to get to the field? Well now we had to walk up that hill. Michel's father made it about half way up and just ran out of gas. There were a lot of EMT's with wheelchairs around so she went to ask if one of them could help him up the hill. Meanwhile Mikey and I kept going and we ended up on a bus heading back to the parking lot. Mikey jumped on the first empty bus but the driver wanted to get back to the parking lot to pick up some people in wheelchairs (it was a wheelchair accessible bus) so were on our way before anyone else caught up to us.

The EMT's deciced that they didn't want to help Michel's father because they were only there for emergencies! So if he had a heart attack walking up the hill they might do something but to prevent him from having a heart attack we were on our own. Jerks! Anyway, Michel's father did manage to walk up the hill by taking his time and stopping a few times to catch his breath.

When we got home we had a nice family party for Mikey's First Olympics. So overall our first Special Olympics experience was less than we were hoping for. Hopefully, next time will be better.


Debra Hamel said...

I can't believe you're up for a next time! What a nightmare. Stupid EMTs.

Maxine said...

Hi, I have just come over to your blog via your comments on Deblog (sorry for getting my Sherlock Holmes muddled up -- I adored them when a child but obviously have forgotten what happened now that I am 150).
I do like your blog, and am adding it to my bloglines subscription.
I thought this posting about the realities of life compared with someone else's idea of "what would be nice but let's not bother about the details" very telling. Also I remember being in similar situation with my parents -- being with two sprightly girls bored having to be still all the time, and parents who could not or did not want to move more than 50 yards a day. My Dad is still alive but he just says he won't go anywhere now, so we vist him rather than trying to go anywhere with him. (Logistical nightmare).
I have noticed this way that movies and books often seem to treat people (often children) with disabilities, with the same kind of romanticised yet "skating over the details" of the practicalities. I find it sentimental and unrealistic. (I just posted on Petrona about two books like this, where in each case the child concerned seemed mainly to be there to show what a great person the caring adult is....)
Let's hope these organisers get their acts together next time -- but I don't imagine you are holding your breath.

Naomi said...

We had a smilarish experience recently with a mini-meet (for kids younger than 8) that was being held alongside the regular special Olympics events. Lots of waiting and waiting and waiting and not much organization.

We also left early with tired cranky kids.

I did get one great moment though, while they were trying to get everyone into position for the speeches Callum decided that he would go for a power walk around the track and all the volunteers waved and cheered while he did it, Callum responded by waving and smiling as if he was walking the red carpet at an awards event. I actually got tears in my eyes because I could see the smiles that Callum was bringing to everyone faces and the joy that he felt from being the centre of their attention.