Sunday, 23 September 2018

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Jacob and the WAVE 

By Michelle Netzloff-Luna
Cedar Street Times - Aug 17, 2018

“If you wanna play, you can play!”

These words embody the heart of the WAVE program, and Executive Director Darryl Smith takes them seriously. His vision is to never turn a kid away from the opportunity to discover sports and experience the character building, camaraderie and fun that sports can offer. Everyone is included. So when Isabella Lee wanted to enroll her son Jacob in the WAVE program this summer, Jacob was no exception. But Jacob isn't just another 11 year old kid from PG. Jacob has autism.

Isabella spent everyday at the WAVE Program, watching her son from the sidelines. As an ever present yet unobtrusive support system for Jacob, she was witness to a transformation that surprised even her. This is her story.

“At our last IEP meeting, Linda Williams, principal of Robert Down, suggested I look at the WAVE program because she thought Jacob would benefit from the program and have a great time. Because Linda Williams is the person that had given Jacob a chance for the last 5 years, we totally trust her. So I looked into it and asked my friends, and everyone whose kid attended spoke very positively about it. But these are main streamed kids who are very athletic so I still wasn't very sure. I was afraid of enrolling him because with the sensory processing disorder, I thought he was going to be overwhelmed or he was going to be isolated. Through the years we tried so many things and it went really bad, even though Jacob is actually a very athletic boy. When he was young, he had amazing eye-hand coordination, which according to his OT, was atypical for an ASD kid. So I put him in many different sports when he was 5 or 6. That's when I learned he gets really overwhelmed with even normal activity, but not just overwhelmed, to him it was actually painful. But I wanted him to participate. So I talked to Jordan Gasperson, a coach at the WAVE who has known Jacob since kindergarten, and he said , “Well, it's free, just enroll him and see how he does.” So for this camp, well basically I was being brave. I let him go in on Monday to try it out, with the stipulation that if does not work I would pull him out. But then, oh my gosh, after the first day I said OK, I'm going to have him see it through, because he was having such a great time. It was definitely a team effort, his friends, the coaches and councilors were really remarkable. They were very kind, compassionate, and they let Jacob be Jacob and do things at his own pace. They taught him step by step and gave him a lot of chances.

What I saw is they were careful to not leave anyone behind. There were several events that really filled me with joy. He was doing baseball with the boys, I think there were about 35 of them divided into two teams. He didn't really know about baseball, so after he batted, he went to first base, but didn't touch the base, he just went around. And no one said anything. They totally just embraced him. Then when they changed to the outfield, the coach asked him if he wanted to be a pitcher. When the other team hit the ball into the outfield one of his teammates caught the ball and was about to throw it to first base when Jacob ran up to this boy and told him he wanted the ball to throw instead. This boy actually handed the ball to Jacob, and Jacob got to throw the ball. When Jacob went up to bat, the whole team cheered. They really embraced him. This program really benefited him by making him truly feel that he can be himself, that he can have a sense of confidence, and he can be with friends. By the third day he told me,' I can do it”

I feel this camp did more than just expose him to all these different sports that I wouldn't even have dared to put him in, but it allowed him to have positive interactions with his peers. There was a time when he didn't have a partner, and there was a boy who walked up to him and asked Jacob if he wanted to be his partner, rather than being partnered by the councilors. I saw a constant compassion and inclusion. I see this camp creating a world of inclusion, and a place where you can try new things.

Jacob cannot really say much, but he enjoyed getting ready every morning and he said he was happy. I saw it in his face. I think he was able to do this because there were familiar people. He knew a lot of kids from his school and also the coaches. His PE teacher was there and some of his friend's parents were coaching. It's a community that he's familiar with and I think that helped him succeed. This is really a remarkable program and I was just sharing this with our friends this past weekend who live in the SF Bay area. They had never heard of anything like this. I saw how the WAVE Program really encourages all the kids, not just Jacob, It's a community, and this community is telling all the kids that they believe in them. This program is a great way of sharing and showing their love. So truly, much gratitude. I really appreciate it.”

 

 

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