Some children like our neurotypical son thrive on activities such as sports day and love being able to take part.
Our youngest son struggled with his sports day last month as he didn’t like the fact that parents were watching their children. He doesn’t like being the centre of attention and he refused to take part in his race or join in with anything else until he found a quiet area of the field where he felt no one was watching him.
Last night our daughter was sobbing her heart out as she didn’t want to take part in sports day. At her middle school they operate a ‘house’ system and she was worrying that she would let her ‘house’ down, as in her eyes she is not very good at long jump, the event she had chosen to take part in, so she wouldn’t score any points. We tried to reassure her that as long as she took part and did her best, no one could expect anymore from her. Unfortunately, one of her traits of ASD is to be a perfectionist and unless she feels she is the best at what she does, she is not satisfied with the end result and will tell herself that she is rubbish. It doesn’t matter how much we try to convince her otherwise, she will not listen to reason.
This morning she refused to go to school. I was firm and said that if she didn’t go to school she would miss her dance lesson tonight and this helped to change her mind. I also told her that she needed to speak to someone and explain how she felt. I didn’t hold out much hope that she would do this and emailed the learning support staff so that they would look out for her and have a chat.
To my amazement, I received an email this morning to tell me that our daughter had marched straight up to a member of staff when she arrived at school and told them she wouldn’t be taking part in long jump today. They have allowed her to just sit and watch as they could see her high levels of anxiety rising as she spoke to them, but have also explained to her that she must believe in herself and that her best at whatever activity she is participating in is all that anyone expects from her. The goal for Year 7 now is for her to understand this message and then on sports day next year she will feel able to take part without putting on any additional pressure on herself to be the best.
I’m feeling very proud of her though for speaking out and explaining how she felt to someone at school, as this is something she struggles to do. She hates to ask for help and tries to do everything herself, which is why we have nights like last night when she finally explodes as she can no longer keep her worries to herself. Hopefully, this is a step forward in her realising that asking for help can be a positive thing to do.