I’m going to teach my daughter to play catch.

My daughter and I are both on the autism spectrum. She is about to turn three years old and in light of her birthday coming up I figured it would be worth it to try to teach her a few games so we might find something to do for her birthday party. Generally speaking my daughter tends to create her own games, something I deeply enjoy and appreciate, but I thought maybe grampa might like to play catch with his granddaughter when he visits so I figured I’d give teaching my daughter to play catch a try.

I managed to get my daughters attention and demonstrate catching a big soft ball with mom. However when it came time for my daughter Sevie to catch the ball things got really hilarious. I threw the ball at her slow and exaggerated, expecting her to catch it, and instead she just followed the ball with her eyes and as it approached her she simply stepped out of the path of the ball and let it pass her by. Then after the ball landed my daughter wandered over to it and picked it up before she threw it back at me, I caught it and let out a hardy laugh.

“You’re supposed to catch it silly.” I said between laughs and chuckles.

I tried again. Again my daughter followed the ball and stepped out of its path and then picked it up and threw it back at me. This time she looked at me like I was an idiot. It was almost as if she were thinking to herself,

“Dad, why don’t you get out of the way of the ball?”

I repeated this scene a third time while laughing and upon her third attempt to throw the ball back to me she actually walked over to me beforehand and turned me to the side so as to encourage me to avoid being struck by the ball that I was trying to catch. She then threw the ball and I let is pass me before I picked it up. My daughter was flapping her arms in glee and let out her customary scream of excited approval upon seeing me understand how to play this new game now titled “don’t stand in the path of a moving object dumb dumb.”

It then struck me how intelligent my daughter was. I mean I get that playing catch is fun in a certain sense but when I really stopped to think about it standing in the path of an object hurtling toward oneself does seem unintelligent from a certain perspective when compared to moving out of it’s path where one is safe. What better metaphor could I find to highlight the differences we sometimes see between neural typical and neural a-typical? From the perspective of a neural typical person my daughter not catching the ball is technically failing to grasp the game. From my daughters perspective it is clear she understands the idea but thinks it more safe and sensible to not stand in the path of something that could strike and hurt you.

The humour of the situation aside it really is a great example of the different ways of thinking. It isn’t about right or wrong ways of doing things and really shouldn’t be. It’s about recognizing that both views have valid reason and each is valuable in it’s own way.

It’s only when we get stuck on the idea that there is a right way and a wrong way that things become problematic. Luckily for me I am also on the spectrum. I am also a pretty easy going and had no issue with adjusting to my daughter’s preference. Instead of catching the ball in the air just before it strikes me I now catch the ball on the ground after it has passed me.

My daughter taught me how to play catch.