So, I must admit, I always need something to rate performance on. I guess as humans most of us do, right? I mean I understand the idea of not keeping score at a kids’ soccer game to a point, but I’ve always joked that you have 80 more years of disappointment ahead, get used to dealing with it now. I’m aware that it’s a cynical look at things and it really is a joke, but performance does matter, sorry folks, but how we rate and track performance, that’s where the real wins are.
I’ve played sports much of my life at varying levels of personal skill and of course, once the wins and losses are counted it’s interesting to investigate the individual statistics. Goals, assists, hits, turnovers time on the ice, penalty minutes, faceoff winning % and so many more stats in my favorite sport, hockey are tracked now. I can’t believe some of the stuff they can watch and analyze. Some will argue that the stats don’t matter but, those details, they tell a huge story. I have a friend locally that has coached at all levels of ice hockey including my team when I played in high school and even if he doesn’t realize it, I learned so much more about the fine details from him than anyone else and these skills still apply in my professional life too. Goals and assists to a hockey player are easy ones, but when you get down into the finite details of a player’s game, that’s where a real coach can make that average kid a star and the one riding the bench a key contributor if they are both willing to really work at it. This is where improvements will happen not with just physical skill increasing but by gaining a better knowledge of the game and the details that make the difference. So, VJ, Thank you, Coach!
What does this have to do with Gavin? So, lets look at kiddos like Gavin and for now, we can take the 5 others in his class and look at the stats, any stats. Right now, like many sports teams at that age (5-7) the skill levels are varied greatly, each has strengths and weaknesses based on their own story. Easy enough, right? Well, it’s not always been like that for us. Here’s the deal that is so hard for parents, at first, to get. We can’t compare the score and performance of any of these kids the exact same way. I’d make the argument this goes for all kids but for today, we’re speaking about a classroom of special kiddos. I’m working on another piece about the phases of things we’ve gone through in Gavin’s lifetime so I’m jumping ahead a bit here, but this is part of the phase of mourning I’ll speak of in great depth soon. This is where the work begins for team G!
Yes, team G! Last week I was having a conversation about meds for G with one of the medical professionals on his team and she seemed truly blown away at the details I had about Gavin. It seemed every question she had for me was answered in detail so she could make a well-informed decision on how we’d proceed. I must admit, it was fun a couple of times to say no, that’s not the way to go because of “x”. I’m far from a master at all this stuff so while I was feeling some pride personally, it was all about the people that G is surrounded by. They are the ones that fed me the information so I could advocate for G. I know everything I write includes them but, there is a reason for that. They are the rockstars in our world. Joreen and I act more as the General Manager for Team G and let our coaching staff do what they do. The “x” factor for the visit with his medical team were the statistics! Just like an athlete the stats are taken, researched and coaching starts. What’s cool, is the fact that Gavin’s school teachers, his home teachers and his family teachers are all in communication all the time as one group! Sharing the statistics, they each keep. Now for G it’s not all about how he performed. Right now, what’s just as important is how the team got him to perform at his current level. They’re laying groundwork for his educational future.
Let’s go back to that coach in hockey. Every one of us needed something different for effective coaching to get through to us. Let’s see, there is the player that just needs to do it 1,000 times and then they have it. There is the player that needs the assistant coach with the soft voice to pull them aside, explain it in a nurturing way and offer some kind support. Then there is the player that doesn’t mind Jimmy Duggan (Tom Hank’s character in League of Their Own) telling you to start using that lump 3 feet above your ass! That was me by the way and I truly hated the coach that wouldn’t say a word and knew it all and assumed we did as well. My point here is that we all needed something different and many of us could use a little of it all from time to time but finding the right stuff took patience and a big team of experienced coaches.
Back to G. As parents we’re surrounded by milestones for our kids, right? Well, as the dad of a special needs kid it was a hard lesson time after time when G was missing them. This kid, I swear he’s brilliant but, he needs a specific plan for his way of learning. G is like most kids in that they will take as much easy time as you give him and I’m probably the worst as far as being too easy. I love to just hang with G, let him play on the tablet a bit too much and honestly, just watch him enjoy his life but that’s not at all what’s best. G needs structure. He needs his visual schedule that tells him before he gets his tablet, he has 5 other tasks to complete. Now G is also slick and a little bit of a scammer in that he will try to move the scheduled events around to his benefit but deals with the reality well. He may even turn on the lovin’ to try shape things as he’s like but as a coaching staff, we need to maintain our discipline and keep him on task sometimes. Everyone on Team G knows how he best learns and when we make a new discovery it’s shared quickly. Just like sports there are periods of time where it feels like Gavin is on a hot streak. He’s locked in and learning a new skill, combining something already learned or showing us something we didn’t even knew he was able to accomplish which is awesome and just shows, the coaching staff is on their game too. There are also slumps, happens to the best, but those are the times we all dig in and together look for a slump breake. So, these are the times we review the stats and create a coaching plan to help get him on his next hot streak.
Guys, this stuff isn’t easy. It’s especially hard when G can’t speak or help lead us like we would normally have from a 6-year-old. But, as a member of this team, it’s our job to make sure we see and understand the stats daily. G makes bigger gains than we realize sometimes. This past week we received the video below from his school team and it was waterworks for dad. I had no idea G was working on his addition using touch points and this was the first time they were taken away as a tool and the little man smoked it! He shoots, he scores! I haven’t asked but, I bet the other 5 kiddos all have a different game plan for the same goal. That’s where these teams, like the one we have all worked hard to assemble, win even when the data isn’t perfect.
As an aside, that phase of mourning I mentioned earlier, here’s a bit about that. This is the portion of the program that is therapeutic for me and part of the reason why we’ve created Gavin’s Voice. This life post diagnosis has at times been so hard on us all as a family. The list of things that are challenging with Gavin can feel so long at times but then that kid is near you and well, it’s time to get over it because he is very much alive and happy and perfect. I must admit something though, it’s the first time I have said it, well, wrote it publicly, but I struggled within my family for a while when things started to look like G was on the Spectrum. Gavin has a cousin who’s about 6 months older than him. When the two of them were very little I dreamed of them in the same school as we share the district we live in and playing sports together, but we’ve had to change that a bit. It was easy to try and compare Gavin with his cousin, but it wasn’t fair to either of them. We were always looking for that sign that G was just a bit behind, waiting for that next visit where G would talk as much as him, but it wasn’t coming, and it hurt. It wasn’t jealousy at all but sadness that this perfect relationship wasn’t going to happen, at least not now and that G had an uphill battle. This was part of that mourning phase, at least for me, that I speak of. Now, Gavin’s cousin, Weston, is a kind, smart and gifted kiddo who I just love. I love that he gets G as he is and who knows what the future holds for them together. It may be a little different but, they are both superstars and I just hope the future holds amazing things together for them along with all of Gavin’s family.
The opportunity is in the details (statistics) and Gavin continues to grow, learn, and love because so many people care about those details. We will work hard to maintain the best coaches and stadiums for this kiddo to play in and that along with a ton of love from all around us will prove we’re not alone and show the world that he truly is a special child. Gavin will continue to define the diagnosis, not be defined by it.
Thank you all! Much love