I gave her a half-hearted yes at first because in theory it seemed like a nice idea and I haven’t found a karate class for special needs kids. James also responds well to Estelle because she is very direct.
Last week, she reached out to see if we were confirmed. I texted back and was honest. I told her I was on the fence because I am reluctant to have James with typical kids because of how they might react to him.Two minutes after I sent my text, the phone rang. It was Estelle…“You don’t have to worry about that in my class. I don’t let kids do that. I am always watching them. If I catch them doing it, I take them aside...” and on and on she went until she started talking about the cost and what she was pro-rating etc. I was too tired to say no.
So there we were this Sunday with Estelle. There were just two other boys and a parent in the class. While Estelle was changing, the boys were pretending to do karate and one boy gave James a firm kick. I could already see that they “knew.”The class started and true to Estelle’s style, it was a whirlwind. She talked fast and got right into moves. She gave little explanation and the kids barely had a moment to stop. It was everything a special needs karate class was not.
But, James did amazing. On the autism scale of one to ten, James was an 11. He paid attention, tried hard, and asked questions that were somewhat appropriate. It was like his brain didn’t have a second to wander.But on the neurotypical scale, James was a 4.
James was the weird kid. The other two boys laughed and rolled their eyes every time he asked a question or said something. Estelle didn’t notice. The other mother in the class didn’t seem to notice. But I saw every smile and every sneer.As I watched, I tried to give James the eye or shake my head when he wanted to ask a question.
But then I thought, “My son is raising his hand appropriately to ask a question. Why am I shaking my head that he can’t? So two kids won’t smile to each other about him?”I need to hold my head up and say, “Great job James,” not “Don’t talk James; the boys will look at you funny.”
When the class was over, I didn’t know what to think. It’s a small class and she kept his attention for 45 minutes. I already paid so I’m going try it week by week.I know it’s my choice if I give two children such power. James goes to a special needs school and we aren’t around typical kids much, so this is new territory for both of us.
But if I can navigate the unchartered waters of autism, I can at least try to navigate the unchartered waters of snotty kids – although it seems like getting a black belt would be easier.