Kid Refuses to Be on the Same Team as a Girl With Autism

14

When all of the kids in Naomi’s class were getting excited for their school’s big “Sports Day,” this 8-year-old girl was less pumped about the situation. For this child with autism, any sport is a challenge, so practicing for egg and spoon races, hurdles, and sprinting are all difficult tasks. However, one classmate’s reaction to having Naomi on her “team” threatened to ruin the entire experience.

“She is small, quiet, slow at running and finds balance and jumping difficult,” her mom, Miriam Gwynn, wrote on her blog. “She has fallen too often and takes longer to master even the most basic of physical skills. Everyone in her class knows this but today it seems even more obvious.”

When her class divided into teams to practice the skills that they would need for upcoming events, there was no mention of “competing, timing, or winning.” However, Miriam explained that the kids picked up on the idea that this was a practice for a big day when trophies would be handed out. When the teacher split the students into groups, one girl approached with a few thoughts:

“Miss can I swap groups?”
“Does she have to be in our team?”
“It’s not fair we always have her!”

The child refused to take part in the activities simply because he was on the same team as Naomi and wanted to be able to win. “My 8-year-old won’t tell me how she felt about that but I can imagine. As her mom I want to cry,” Miriam wrote. “My daughter may struggle with social awareness at times but even she totally understood she was not welcome or wanted and she knew exactly why.”

Miriam explained that Naomi knows that she is different from her peers, realizes that her physical skills are delayed, and often needs help from an adult to participate. And yet, she always tries. “What would you do if you knew no one in your class wanted you on their team? Naomi ignored them,” Miriam wrote. “She carried on as if nothing had happened while the other child sat and watched.”

As the teams moved from the different activities, her teacher noticed something remarkable. “When Naomi’s team came to sprint, they were a child short on her team. The child who finds running hard took it upon herself to not only run for herself but also on behalf of the very child who had refused to join in because she did not wish to be on a team with my autistic daughter!” she wrote. “The teacher cheered her as she pushed herself to not only run twice for her team but also do several other tasks twice over because her team was a child down.”

There was no race to win that day or prizes to earn, but when Miriam arrived to pick up her daughter, the teacher asked to speak to her. “She never told me about the child who refused to join in because my daughter was on her team,” she wrote. “Instead, she told me how proud she was of my 8-year-old who excelled on so many levels.”

It was Naomi who eventually shared with her mom what happened that day, and her take on it is nothing short of incredible:

How silly was that, mom! She thought she had no chance of winning because I am slower than others but you will never win anything unless you try . . . I tried my best and did extra when I could to help. That makes me a winner, right?”

Naomi proved to everyone around her that she is much better at sports than anyone, including her classmate, realized. “She showed sportsmanship, team work, and resilience beyond her years. What she lacks in physical ability she made up for in strength of character,” her mom wrote. “Too often we look down on others because they seem weaker or less able. Sometimes the hardest lessons in life show us what we are truly made of.”