Nicholas first came into my life as a physical therapy (PT) outpatient in June 2009 after he turned three years old. He previously received therapy services at his home through the First Steps program, but had “aged out” of the program and needed to continue with his therapy. What I saw coming in my clinic door was a spirited little guy who alternated between wanting to do everything himself, yet still wanting his Mimi there in case he needed a few hugs. He was wearing braces on both of his legs and walking like a newborn colt – a little wobbly and feet not always going where he wanted them to go. He had trouble speaking clearly and it took a few weeks for me to become accustomed to it and understand everything he wanted to tell me – and he wanted to tell me a lot! He needed his hand held to walk, couldn’t go up and down steps without his hand held, couldn’t run or jump and couldn’t catch a ball.
Fast forward three years and now Nicholas speaks well enough to call me on the phone himself to announce his presence when he comes to PT. He can go up and down steps by himself, but still needs to hold the rail. He can ride a regular two-wheel bike with training wheels. He can jump forward a foot or two without falling down (unless he wants to fall down). He can throw a ball toward someone with pretty good aim. He can do all these things with no braces on his legs.
Right now his biggest dream is to play T-ball. He has worked all winter on learning how to hold a bat, swing it, hit the ball off the tee and run the bases. Recently he has worked on finer points of the game, like throwing the ball to a teammate to get the runner out. Our team is usually Nicholas, Mimi and me, and I can assure you that Nicholas is also the team manager. He decides everything – what the line-up is, who is going to play in the outfield and where the bases are. His first actual team practice is today and I wish I could be there to watch.
As a therapist it is always gratifying to see your patients meet their goals. This six-year-old boy’s goal is to play T-ball and through hard work on his part and also on the part of his family, he is getting a chance to do that. Will he be the “best” player on his team? Probably not, if all you look at are speed and strength. Will he be accepted as a member of whatever team he is placed on? I sincerely hope so and I’m sure that whatever he may lack in speed and strength will be more than made up for in heart and soul.
I hope his coaches and teammates learn from him the same things I have learned from Nicholas. Lessons such as:
- If you stumble, get up and keep going.
- If you make a mistake, laugh it off and keep going.
- When you finally accomplish something you’ve been working on forever – give high fives all around!
- Never give up – even if the odds are stacked against you.
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