I walked into the hall, it was noisy with the noise bouncing off the walls. Rhys held my hand but within seconds he slipped free and ran. The mats before him were too inviting, he couldn’t stop himself, and I was too slow to catch him.

“You need to get off the mat” the man said. (Covid required deep cleaning between sessions, and two men were disinfecting each mat ready for the session.)

Rhys didn’t hear the man. Or maybe he did, but the words had no meaning to him.

I grabbed the belt around my son’s waist and hoisted him onto my hip. A deep dread filling my stomach, as the normal routine of events started to unravel.

As the men finished their job. The physical weight of my son started to ache through my joints. I lowered him to the ground, but within seconds he bolted off.

“Leave him” came a kind voice, and I turned and came face to face with a woman with shoulder length blonde hair. “Let him run” she said, and I stood in shock at a comment I don’t hear often from the general public.

As the rest of the group lined up on the judo mat, I joined Rhys, and tried to get him to stand next to me.

“Let him run” came another voice, and I turned to see a man, his black belt signifying his authority in the group.

As the lesson progressed I watch the man interact with my son. He repeatedly held out his hands to Rhys as he lay on the ground, and after a while Rhys held up his hands to him, his eyes locked with this stranger he had just met five minutes earlier.

As Rhys was lifted, the black belt moved with him and then gently brought him to the ground in a judo throw.

I watched the interaction between them, Rhys’ giggling with excitement. The butterflies in my stomach eased slightly.

After a while the man approached me and I felt the nerves suddenly rise again. I was waiting for the comment. Something about how maybe we should give it a year for Rhys to develop a bit further, and that he just wasn’t ready.

But that comment never came. “It’s going to take time, but keep bringing him. He will get there”

He then started to describe what he had been teaching Rhys. Told me Rhys’ strengths, his fears and how far he knew how to push him.

This man had spent a total of twenty minutes with my son and knew more than someone who had known him for years.

As we left and returned home, I felt elevated. It had not gone great, but we had been accepted. Then my phone pinged, and I worried. I thought it may be the message I have got so often before. A rejection and how my son probably wasn’t the right fit for the group.

But as I looked down at the letters across my screen, I was in shock. “Rhys did amazing, look forward to seeing you next week”.

We have had many rejections. Comments from schools, from wraparound care, holiday clubs and sport activities. All have pushed my son aside and each time torn a whole in my heart.

Here was someone who saw my son as a child. A boy who could learn judo.

We have a long journey to venture, but we have started by taking the first step. I have found somewhere that is inclusive.

And bloody hell, that is a hard thing to find!

Written by A & Me Blog

Adaptive Judo – A Parents Story