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'Oh, I know autism, is that like Down Syndrome?'

Over the weekend, Ireland had it's first proper weekend of sun this year (bright and warm) 2021. COVID restrictions are still in place, so it was great for the kids to get outside in good weather to run around.

My two boys went out to have a 'Nerf' war with their guns and ammo of choice. They met up with some of the other kids from the apartment complex and pretty soon there was 6 or 8 of them running around shooting and blasting each other. As usual, at some stage, there was a misunderstanding - nothing serious - but my wife went out just to calm things over a little.

Whilst she was speaking to our two and their friends, our youngest said 'Is it because of the autism?' -- our eldest had been pushing rules and guidelines a bit. One of our eldest's friends, who knows everything and has an opinion of everything (at 9) quipped in, 'Oh, I know autism, is that like Down Syndrome? We have someone in our class with it.'

When my wife told me this, I was glad that there was a learning opportunity. Disappointed a little, that our youngest had 'revealed' his older brother - though he himself isn't behind the door in telling people about his diagnosis, he just usually does it at his own pace. Disappointed that the child making the statement, seemed quite happy to pigeon hole, so early in life - but as I said, there is a learning opportunity. I was heartened that there are some schools where 'inclusion' is practised and held up as an example.

The lads and lasses continued to play for another couple of hours without incident, which was great.

GAA training starts back next weekend, the restrictions change this week, but the coaches felt it best to give the kids a week to get used to the idea of coming back into structured training, rather than going hell for leather with them. If my boys are anything to go by, kids all over the country will be busting a gut to get out there. Over the last 4 months the coaches have set homework for the kids and managed the restrictions for the kids really well. The kids were able to 'train' on their own through timed 1km runs, rehearsing/practising skills with the game (kicking, catching, passing and lifting). Each post from the children uploaded onto their App, has received positive and uplifting comments from the coaches, so it's been a really good practice for the kids motivation, mind set and positive experience around sport (specifically in our case the GAA).

The coaches have also organised a few 'zoom' sessions on weekend evenings to allow the kids to catch up with their teammates in a social capacity, just letting them catch up, hosting a quiz, share watching a movie and even a couple of 'online' game nights. It's been great to see and hear.

Huge kudos to these coaches and their like all around the country, across all the different sports that have done something similar. These coaches aren't professional, they are just parents of the kids who take a massive interest in helping all the kids. I thank them for the time they have taken from their own families, their interest, dedication, fortitude and inspiration - without them lockdown would've been a very different experience. It won't be forgotten.

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