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Saturday, September 1, 2012

"The Handicapped Children"

Before summer vacation ended, my dad (aka "Papu") took the kids and me out for a morning of bowling. It’s an activity that all of us love to do, especially when there’s a Papu along. I called the bowling alley the day before we went to make sure we didn’t need reservations, and to see if we could use a cool ramp (you perch your ball on it, give the ball a push, and it rolls down into the lane) that Papu had seen some other kids using the last time he took the boys bowling. Papu was so excited because he knew the kids would have much more fun bowling if they could use that ramp, especially Ella and Aidan.

I asked the young girl on the other end of the phone if we would be able to use the ramp the next day. She said dismissively, and I quote, “No, that is for The Handicapped Children.” She didn't specify what kind of handicapped children the ramp was for. She didn't ask me if I had handicapped children. And before I could respond, she quickly put me on hold to see if we would need reservations the next day. As I sat there with the phone in my hand, I grew more and more irritated. First of all, the way the girl said “The Handicapped Children” just annoyed me. Like it was a title of some kind. And then it hit me- hey! What is the definition of “handicapped”? Because my kids could be in that category, depending on what we’re talking about. My blood started boiling. I realize this is not a major deal in the grand scheme of life- it's just a bowling ramp for crying out loud. So I don't know why it made me so irritated when the girl said what she did. I admit I am probably hyper-sensitive to all things "special needs", and quite possibly a little touchy about this topic.

When the girl got back on the phone, I said “I understand that the ramp is for kids who have special needs, but I’m wondering what you consider ‘handicapped’. I have four kids who have various special needs, and three out of the four get weekly Physical Therapy. Wouldn’t that constitute being ‘handicapped’?" The girl fell over herself, stuttering. She said that yes, of course we could use the ramp and just to ask someone when we arrived at the bowling alley to get it for us.

It struck me that this was one circumstance where I was willing to be brutally honest about my kids’ limitations in order to get them something that would make their bowling more fun, and a positive experience for all of them instead of a frustrating one. If there had been a child who needed the ramp more than my kids did, I would have given it away in a heartbeat. But I knew the bowling alley would be almost empty, and so why couldn’t my kids use the crazy ramp?

When we got to the bowling alley, we got the precious ramp without any problems. We got our feet, big feet and small feet, into fun, clompy bowling shoes. Papu got a kick out of lining up the ramp just so, then Aidan and Ella would put their ball on top and shove it down the ramp into the lane. It made our time bowling so much more enjoyable having that ramp, because Ella and Aidan could actually participate well. Ben and Jonah used it a couple times too, but mostly chose to flail the ball down the lane without any assistive devices.

Ella won the game of bowling! She didn’t care whether she had won or lost, she just loved having time with the big guys and Papu, doing something with them that was different and fun. Her brothers were quite impressed that their baby sister had the highest score.

The bowling alley has an arcade, and of course the kids wanted to use the tokens they had gotten as part of our package. Total nightmare. My kids + arcade= tantrums, trouble, whining, disappointment, and ultimately total meltdown for all parties involved. Too many sounds, lights, stimuli… They want so badly to play in arcades when they get the chance to, but boy, arcades do a number on their sensitive little nervous systems. It was interesting to watch them and talk with Dad about the whole thing as it was happening. It was a perfect demonstration of how our sensory systems play such a huge role in our daily activities, and how sensory overload is so painful when you have SPD.

The kids eventually recovered from their Arcade Meltdowns, after sitting strapped tightly into their carseats, in the quiet car, watching a movie on the way home. Bowling with Papu was a great time. But remind me never to let the kids enter another arcade if I want to maintain my sanity.

This whole bowling experience made me think about being “handicapped.” What does that word mean? Are my kids handicapped? I’d say yes, in some situations they are, but in other circumstances not really. I decided that this time, I was going to use the “handicapped” card to our advantage. It was one instance where I was happy to say yes! My kids are handicapped! So give them a bowling ramp, already.

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