It was a brisk Wednesday morning as I walked my daughter home from school. Her cheeks were flushed and her face smiling as she told me about her day. By the time we reached home less than ten minutes later I was crying.
Wednesday is PE day. The one day of the week my daughter dreads. Some people thrive at sports, my autistic daughter isn’t one of them.
As she held my hand she began to tell me about PE that day and I braced myself for tales of not being picked again or how she fell over or how she couldn’t roll or kick the ball, all stories she’s unfortunately told me time and time again. But today was different; today she was animated, emotional and excited.
‘PE was great today’, she started, which made me smile straight away. That was a rare statement in itself.
‘We were playing rounders (similar to baseball). We were put in teams but there was only one of my friends in my team. I know sone didn’t want me in their team. They never do mum. I can’t catch, or run or bat so I understand. Everything was ok to start with, well not really as I couldn’t catch or run or bat as you know. But then it was my turn to bat.’
She stopped as we waited to cross a road. I had no idea what she would tell me next.
The girl in the other team threw the ball. I missed it. She threw again. I missed it again. But then a friend in the other team started chanting my name. Others in her team joined in too. I tried so hard to hit that ball mum, but I couldn’t. I missed again. Three times I missed and I was ready to walk away when the girl behind me, a girl in the other team, stepped forwards and put her arms round mine.’
We paused to cross an opening to a garage. My 11-year-old continued.
‘She had her arms and hands over mine mum and they were still chanting my name. The girl threw the ball a fourth time and the girl behind me helped me hit the ball! Then I had to run mum. You have to run to the next area before the other team get the ball there. I can’t run. But I tried.’
By now my eyes were already watering as we reached our street.
‘The children on the other team were still chanting and cheering for me. I did my absolute best mum, but when I looked over I saw something amazing. See the girl with the ball mum, well she had caught it and she was coming towards me but she wasn’t running fast like she should have. She was running in slow motion to let me get to the hoop before she did.’
She paused as we reached the gate of our house.
‘The other team lost so I could win. I’ve never won in PE until today. It felt so good.’
So many told me that mainstream school might not be right for my daughter. They said she might be bullied or not be included and she’d struggle to make friends. In fact she couldn’t be more accepted or included. That day I knew that despite her sensory difficulties, her eating disorder, her severe anxiety, her selective mutism and her autism, that mainstream has been 100% right for her.
Not only that but it’s been right for every other child in her class too.
I don’t remember much of my school days, but I know my daughter won’t ever forget that PE lesson for as long as she lives.