March 10, 2016
Self Advocacy
April 15, 2016


I have always believed in inclusion. Long before I had my own children I worked with children with disabilities and I helped those families to advocate to have their child included. When I would meet a parent or professional that didn’t believe in inclusion I would be aghast. Doesn’t everyone want to be included, to join in, to belong? Even before I had kids I joined a local grassroots not for profit that was all about inclusion.

Then came my own kids each with their own challenges. We chose our local Catholic board as they believe in inclusion unlike the public board (their idea of inclusion was to let some kids join their grade for gym or art and spend the rest of the day down the hall in a special education room)Our Magical Summer - Wordless Wednesday

In the summer between grade 6 and 7 Corbin had a horrible experience on a local recreational soccer team. From the start the other kids ostracized him and I had a bad feeling about the team – including having overheard a few boys planning to go after the “fat kid” and when I told the coach she did nothing about it. then it turned out she wasn’t going to actually do the coaching, she had her daughters boyfriend do it and he was hell bent on winning..If I had been stronger at the time I would have taken him off the team. In the end the whole experience left a bad taste in our mouth. Then I started to get calls from Patrick, an enthusiastic and energetic man who had seen far too many kids like mine (with Autism) have horrible soccer experiences. He wanted us to put Corbin on one of his teams for kids with Autism only. I struggled and I told him – I believe in inclusion. Maybe if the Plan was to get the kids ready to play on a regular league I could go along with it. Patrick respected my wishes but once in a while he would call. Finally the decision was made when Corbin begged me to find a soccer team for him. I looked everywhere – I hadn’t realized how hard it is to find a recreational team for over 12 year olds. I presented the option to play on the Autism team. He was ecstatic he didn’t care who he was playing with he just wanted to be part of a soccer team again.

I’m the one with the hang up. I wonder what I will say if when seated among strong women warriors in my advocacy efforts and they find out my son plays for a segregated team and on top of that it is segregated to the point you have to have Autism.(i’m still not clear why it couldn’t be for any disability but I don’t call the shots) I still don’t know how I feel about it all and he’s been on the team for about 5 years.

If I had the energy I would start my own league where everyone is welcome – including siblings and people from the community. The goal would be to have fun and to do it together. Thats if I had the time and energy.

Until then I hang my head with shame until my boy hits the field and then I am one proud mama. Proud mama moments don’t happen as much with Corbin so I will take them when I can get them. Then I will double my efforts to create positive change for individuals with disabilities.

Tina Szymczak
Tina Szymczak
Tina Szymczak is a 40-something mom and wife with two spirited boys. She has worked in early intervention and as an advocate resource for families with a loved one with a disability. Now she also writes a blog about raising children with complex needs, trying not to lose your sense of self as you parent, and her struggles with mental health.

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