Wrestling Awards Night and the Boy with Autism


Don’t worry when you are not recognized, but strive to be worthy of recognition.  Abraham Lincoln

What does Abraham Lincoln, Autism, and wrestling have to do with awards night you ask?  Here’s my story.

Wrestling team awards night came late this year (according to Coach Scott) but I must say it was well worth the wait. The weather was perfect, the location incredibly beautiful (this yard was INCREDIBLE and should be on the cover of an outdoor magazine), and the team smelled clean — in comparison to the last time I saw them at league championships!

It was wonderful to see the parents and watch the team pick up where they left off – rough housing on the lawn, joking, talking — a band of brothers.

Three Cheers!

The award ceremony proceeded after a fantastic meal and dessert (um, yum, yum, yum).  The guys received pins, certificates, and letters for their Letterman jackets.  Clapping, cheering, smiles, and laughing.

Healdsburg High School Greyhounds Wrestling Team 2014

Healdsburg High School Greyhounds Wrestling Team 2014


The Boy with Autism

This season I have shared about my son Jack’s wrestling endeavor.  He has worked hard.  Harder than he thought possible.  Harder than I thought he would.  He has been committed to the team, linked to the other players, unified in one goal, he has bonded with these great young men in a way I never believed possible.

My son Jack is a funny guy.  Certainly interesting.  Provocative.  Inspiring.  A true Renaissance man.

Jack has autism.

He was diagnosed at the age of 8 before media took notice; before it became a “crisis” in America; before the full implications of the diagnosis really had meaning.

He also has learning disabilities, had physical difficulties, and without intervention had the potential to struggle socially.  His father and I, though relieved to have answers to our questions, felt overwhelmed with the implications.  Fortunately, we had a fantastic medical support team to walk us through the process, teach us, and strengthen our skill-set.

All was not lost.  Jack was not lost.  The future was bright, though a difficult journey ensued, the future was still there — gleaming for Jack.  Wonderful people, instructors, therapists, programs, the list goes on and on, helped Jack achieve success.

Team loyalty.

Team loyalty.

Autism and Wrestling

Autism and wrestling.  Interesting combination, yes?  I thought so too.  When Jack announced (did not ask — fairly typical) he had joined the wrestling team I was excited for him.  He has trained me to accept his new endeavors.  They happen so no reason to be surprised by his array of interests.

Of course, I was nervous how he would deal with disappointment, how the team would treat him and his humor, how he would deal with the hard work; I worried about him emotionally because, as many now know, processing emotions and expressing them is difficult for the autistic.

No Worries

I need not worry.  Coach Scott, Tim, and Blair were beyond SUPPORTIVE.  They gave me the opportunity to explain autism and how Jack, with autism, perceived the world and processed information.  At the time I had no idea wrestling has its own language!  If I had I would have emphasized Jack is a LITERAL thinker!

The HHS Greyhounds Wrestling Team has proven to be the most supporting, character-building, positive experience.  It seemed the team did not notice anything odd or different about Jack — to the contrary, they all seemed to really love him and include him completely.

What It Comes Down To

Back to awards night.  Towards the end of the evening team awards were given.  Team awards are those individuals recognized by the coaches for various areas of contribution, growth, or other criteria.

What is the point, you ask?  Jack was recognized as “Most Improved JV Team Member” by his coaches!  Yes, he was recognized for his hard work — the team runs, workouts, practices, and physical demands of wrestling.  During the season, because of his daily 2 hour workouts Jack lost over 20 lbs., increased his cardio function, was more flexible, and physically fit.  So, with no further ado… here is Jack receiving his award, smiling, happy, stunned, blessed, and humbled.  Yes, autistics have emotions.  Yes, they are capable of expressing those emotions at times.

As President Lincoln advised, Jack did not work for recognition or applause, he worked for his team.  He did is best because that is what he needed to do for his team.  Period.

Most Improved JV Team Member

Most Improved JV Team Member

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Stunned, surprised, happy, well-deserved

For more information about autism, please visit Autism Speaks.