If winning is not everything, why do they keep score? About competitions, the Olympics, and my boy who prefers to run alone.


It’s London 2012, the Games are on! Are you all watching ?

B004XV9EWW.01.lgAdmittedly, after understanding that the actual Olympic Games have only little in common with his wii game,  Nemo’s interest dropped instantly and he and my husband now merely humour my enthusiasm for almost all the sports, but especially gymnastics and athletics and my cheering for the German Team (placing quite well in the medal count, thank you very much!).

Following the Games on Channel 9 in Australia means exposing myself to possible epileptic seizures, as – instead of following full competitions – they jump from one Aussie athlete competing in a run, to others diving, and back to archery or the basketball team! Then when the competition is over, they will show the winner and their runner ups too..  While I understand this special interest my host nation has mostly for their own athletes, and transmission rights will probably play a great role too, I doubt it does anything for the less popular sports (or those less popular here..) where Aussies do not compete or where their chances to win are only very very small. And why is that so ?

I won’t join those who discuss either the ‘failure’ or ‘overwhelming pressure’ of the Australian Swim team, but I must say that I got a bit annoyed when I saw a young Aussie cry and state she had now “disappointed her parents” and “let everyone down” – when getting OLYMPIC SILVER in the pool.
Is it the parents and sports organisms putting too much pressure on the youngsters to make their investment of time and money pay? Or is it the sense of entitlement of a Generation Y brought up by parents telling them incessantly they are so special and unique – all Winners ! So much so that they can’t cope…with being second best IN THE WORLD??

The selective coverage of the media, the comments, the open disappointment and the discussions are certainly not an Australian speciality, but it reminds me again how competitive Aussies are and this starts in school at a very early age. Now while NT children might be encouraged and thrive when competitions  and awards are introduced basically at prep, for Nemo, as soon as a stopwatch comes out, he stops all together. For some (ASD related?) reason, whenever his performance is measured and compared to others in any way, he will have anxiety attacks and won’t be able to do anything at all. It’s the same for sportive activities as it is for academic subjects.

When I first spoke with Nemo’s lovely, proactive prep-teacher about his possible ASD, she said she had noticed his gross motor skills were not quite developed and he had poor balance. Indeed. I have been calling him “the tumble boy” ever since he came out of the actual toddler years. “So it’s not gonna be the Olympics..” she shrugged it off “So what? Right ?” Right.

It’s not going be the Olympics, Nemo, but competition will be around you your whole life through. We need to find ways to fight that paralysing anxiety, because it actually hides his skills & competences.

Nemo has a depth of understanding and eloquence that is, typical ASD, above average for his age. He likes science and facts. He is not a savant but I think he could indeed shine in some subjects at school if only we work on him keeping the focus, letting others take their turn.. and, obviously, the loathed handwriting. We are working on that.

But he also has morphed over the last 2 years, into a lanky boy with the ‘low muscle tone’ associated with Autism. So I want him to do some sports, I really do! And boy, can he RUN! One day, we watched Nemo rounding a cricket oval 3 times on his own while we chatted with friends, just because he was bored. Our friends, like us, were impressed by the performance : he was not even out of breath.

A long distance runner ? A scientist ? Or at least able to hold down a job in an office, maybe in IT?
Who knows. Only time will tell. Nemo is not ‘gifted’ or a savant. The statistics are against us and the competition, indeed, is strong. We will have to work on our social skills A LOT! Just to be able to keep up with the fast run of a normal life.


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