Due to an elementary school coach’s sidekick having to be out for two weeks, the six-foot-tall coach/former college football player had something a tad better than no sidekick at all – me. A substitute is at least an extra pair of eyes and someone to watch the kids when one has a nature call.
We had a few things in common. For one thing, we graduated from the same high school. I was in the class of 1977 and he was in a class that graduated in the following century. We both value exercise as a means to improve our health and mental well-being. He tosses a football and I hit a tennis ball for stress relief after a school day of spending time with pretty much the entire student body. It beats my having a meltdown and possibly tossing or tearing up my own stuff.
I did my best to help him out. I showed up at the school gym on time and wasn’t late coming back from lunch. He monitored the kids playing outside on the tennis/basketball courts on one side of the field and I monitored the playground on the opposite side. I helped maintain order for the indoor games. Most importantly, I left the toilet seat up in the coach’s office restroom.
An amusing story was my encountering an odd problem in the restroom. The light switch didn’t work. I had to use my “smart” watch’s flashlight application which was sufficient enough that I didn’t fall over the “john”. I noticed later the light was on but I didn’t dare ask what’s the deal with the light. The common sense thing would be to ask but it remained just a thought because a lack of common sense is a common trait for those on the autism spectrum like myself. Either I continued to go in the dark or I figured it out myself.
I did solve the mystery when I spotted another light switch that did the trick. I didn’t feel bad, though, about not asking the coach for enlightenment. I was just relieved the coach didn’t catch me coming out of the dark restroom and saying something like, “Wouldn’t it be easier with the light on?”
With the weather cooperating, most of the classes were held outdoors. The kids played various outdoor games such as basketball, football, soccer, or hung out on the playground. When I found a basketball that wasn’t being used, I commenced to dribbling it. The kids might have thought it strange for a gray-haired 58-year-old lady dribbling a basketball. In my humble opinion, they should view it as an encouraging sign. When I see an 80-or 90-something-year-old taking a stroll in the park on their own two feet, it gives me some hope that I might still be doing such if I should live so long.
Actually, when I dribbled, I wasn’t only dribbling. I was doing two things at once: dribbling for physical exercise and stimming for mental exercise. I had the advantage of having a job-related task that masked my stimming. Dribbling is as much a way to stim as rocking or pacing the floor since it is repetitive movement. For someone living on the autism spectrum, stimming is a way of keeping me cool, calm, and collected while the kids do what they are so successful at — noise and mischief making.
I knew the coach missed his “regular” sidekick and the kids missed her too. I never thought for a second I could replace her or for that matter, any aide I sub for. I do hope he’ll miss me some as I will him, the other staff members, and the kids. That assignment was a reminder to me that two people born decades apart can work together as if they weren’t.