Monkey at the bat

Monkey has a friend.

Now, this is not exactly a first; Monkey has always had friends. When he’s having good days, he is charming and gregarious and has no trouble ingratiating himself to others. The problems come in on the not-so-good days when he is easily frustrated and quick to anger. On those days, the not-quite-friends decide to play elsewhere, and the few select kids who’ve chosen to hang out with him anyway give him wide berth for the day. And maybe the next day, too. “He never wants to play with me anymore,” Monkey lamented of one longtime friend, the other day. “We like to do different things, I guess. Also I guess I get mad a lot.” (The kid in question is a saint for still being friendly to him at all, quite frankly.)

But now Monkey has a friend like him. I’ve been hearing about him all year but only in the last couple of months have I seen this pair in action, and it’s something to observe. They GET each other. They laugh and play for hours on end. They chatter endlessly and never tire of each other. Monkey and Lemur: dynamic Aspie duo.

The interesting thing to me is that while you might assume that all Aspie kids would get along well, there are of course many different flavors/manifestations of Asperger’s and everyone has different personalities. I have seen Monkey spend time with another Aspie and bicker away and later tell me he doesn’t ever want to play with that kid again. So it’s not a given by any means that a pair will get along just because they both have Asperger’s.

Monkey and Lemur are similar in their interests and their senses of humor. But where Monkey can be explosive, Lemur is relentlessly cheerful. I have never seen them argue, and indeed I wonder if Lemur ever argues with anyone. They just have a wonderful time together.

So Lemur’s mom has been telling me about a group they play baseball with every Saturday morning, and she’d told me that they don’t keep score and there aren’t many rules and it’s “a great experience for everyone,” but I kind of brushed it off the first few times she brought it up. I want to tell you that the reason I rejected it was because I was worried about Monkey playing any sort of organized sport; although it’s been years since he played soccer, the traumas there are still pretty fresh in my memory. But that’s not the real reason.

The real reason is that it’s a group primarily aimed at offering a chance to play to kids who are developmentally disabled, and Monkey has two modes when it comes to Different: Oblivion and disgust.

My face burns with shame just typing that. Even though I know it’s just how he’s wired.

Lemur has a developmentally disabled older brother who’s in their class this year at school. And until Lemur and Monkey became friends (and Monkey had the opportunity to play at their house and see Lemur with his brother more), it pains me to say that Monkey was (unintentionally) cruel to this boy many times. Because he didn’t get it. He could not wrap his brain around why this child is slower, is harder to understand when he speaks, doesn’t get things. And whenever I tried to talk to him about it his response was always, “I just don’t like him. HE FREAKS ME OUT.”

What if I brought Monkey out to play baseball with a bunch of kids who would, in his words, “freak him out” and he was horrible to them?

But as Monkey and Lemur have spent more time together, Monkey has come to accept this other child and be very sweet with him. So this weekend when I called to invite Lemur for a playdate and was reminded of baseball, I found myself saying, “You know what? We’ll meet you there.”

Was Monkey interested in playing baseball? He wasn’t sure. Well, was he interested in playing baseball with Lemur and his brothers? YOU BET. Sold! Off we went. We took Licorice with us, for good measure.

We found the park and wound our ways past the fields filled with uniforms and organization and rules. Towards the back of the complex was the field we wanted: The one with kids from 5 to 18, the one where kids twirled in the field, plucking grass and humming songs, the one where kids were perched over home plate, swinging as many times as it took to get a hit.

When Lemur’s family appeared I suddenly realized how ill-prepared I was. “Oh my God,” I murmured to his mom, as all four boys ran off, “I didn’t bring anything. Monkey doesn’t even own a glove.”

“Oh, that’s all right,” she said, waving my worries away. “We all share. Here, I’ve got one he can use.” She called Monkey over and helped him try on the glove, which turned out to be no small feat as—I cannot believe this (can I have my citizenship revoked for admitting this?)—Monkey has never put on a baseball glove before and had a hard time figuring out where to put his fingers.

Once it was settled on his hand, Lemur’s mom tossed him a few balls to catch and he got the hang of it pretty quickly. Then she herded the boys out into the field and let them take turns catching (or more often, chasing) grounders. I stood outside the cage with Licorice, while the kids who were waiting to bat took turns poking their fingers through the chain link to pet her.

After some “fielding” (read: standing in the outfield together, singing songs and marching around), the boys came in to bat.

Lemur and his younger brother both took their turns, then Monkey was up. Lemur’s mom later told me that he’d turned to her and whispered, “But I’m afraid of the ball,” before she got him situated over the plate, arms in position. She’d reassured him that the coach was a very good pitcher and the ball wouldn’t hit him. He took a couple of practice swings and then said he was ready.

The pitcher lobbed the ball—high and soft—and Monkey narrowed his eyes and swung.


It wasn’t much of a hit, really. In “real” baseball the pitcher probably could’ve jogged a few steps to the side and scooped it up, and made the easy pass to first for the out. But he hit it, and he ran, and OH MY GOD how he grinned as we shouted, “GO MONKEY GO!!”

On the other side of the fence, untangling my dog from where she’d wound her leash around my legs, I burst into tears. I quickly unwound Licorice and wiped my face, and looked up in time to see Monkey dancing on first base and giving me a thumbs up. I returned my own thumbs up and shouted, “Do you know what to do next?”

“Sure, I’ve played this on the Wii a thousand times,” he called back, now the consummate baseball expert. “You just keep running counter-clockwise each time someone hits the ball!” Obviously.

The next batter took a while to connect, so Monkey danced, squatted, and rubbed his hands in the dirt while he waited. But once the hit happened, he was off like a shot to second, and then third. The hit after that he brought it on home, and did a victory dance complete with high-fiving Lemur and his brothers and several other nearby players.

At the next change-up Monkey was “assigned” to first base, where he made sure the bag was dirt-free and the grass was evenly plucked. Imagine my surprise when a grounder headed his way and he stopped his small-scale landscaping to run after it, scoop it up, and then tag the base just ahead of the runner. The coach reminded him that the runner would still take the base and I braced myself for the “that’s not fair” or “but I got him out!”, but he just shrugged and said, “Cool!” and threw the ball back. Then he high-fived the runner and went back to his grass-grooming.

I teared up again, and was grateful for the next influx of children wanting to pet Licorice, to distract me.

One of the players was a friendly teenager who was completely enamored of Licorice, but Licorice was a little bit scared of him. He watched her run up and lick all of the little kids and was clearly hurt that she didn’t seem to like him as much. So as Monkey and Lemur ran off again, I explained to our new friend that Licorice is sometimes scared of men, maybe because some had been mean to her in the past, and that if he came and sat down on the ground with us she’d probably feel more comfortable. He did and Licorice slowly warmed up to him, finally sitting right next to him and allowing herself to be petted.

“I really like dogs,” he told me. “I am very gentle with them and I would never, ever hurt a dog.” I assured him that I was sure he never would. “Why would anyone hurt a cute little dog like this?” he wondered. “She’s just so nice. And I am being nice to her. She likes me now. I think she likes me a lot! Does she like me a lot?” I assured him that she certainly did. “We’re friends now,” he told her, giving her a gentle scratch under the chin. “You don’t have to worry.”

When it was all over, I asked Monkey if he wanted to go back next week. “YEAH!” he said. “Because I am really good at baseball now!” Lemur’s mom and I exchanged a look and stifled our giggles, and I told him we could certainly do that.

We said our thank-yous and our goodbyes, and just before I headed off with Monkey and Lemur in tow, Licorice’s new friend asked if I would bring her back next week. “Absolutely,” I told him. “Licorice is looking forward to it already.” He smiled and Monkey told him that it was very nice to meet him and he’d see him next week, and then we were on our way home for grilled cheese sandwiches and an afternoon of caterpillar hunting.

I am kicking myself for not having taken him sooner.


  1. Heather

    Oh I’m so glad it went well for you! And Licorice giving that young man a chance to prove that he really was a good guy, even though he’s 20x bigger than her, well, that just makes me think dogs are even more awesome, too :)

  2. mamalang

    Please don’t kick yourself. If you had taken him sooner, it might not have turned out so well, as he may not have been ready. Our instincts have a way of letting us know when it’s time (usually:))

    My MIL and SIL have a special needs man living with him. He’s 23, and functions, but in most ways he is a 12 year old boy, and will be forever. He loves Scooby Doo, and Johnny Cash, and dogs, and our family. And having him around has been a valuable lesson for all of us. He gets so excited over the little things Santa and the Easter Bunny bring, and he’s always willing to do whatever you ask him to.

    One day my son asked me when he would be a man. What followed was an explanation to a 6 year old about how he would never mentally be a man. Difficult, but it was very rewarding to see that his attitude towards him never changed.

  3. Angela

    What a wonderful experience!!!! That is awesome!

  4. Tracy

    That is so awesome! I’m so glad you found this ball team. What a great confidence booster for Monkey (and you). That is simply awesome! Nothing brings a small tear than the pure joy of your kids. Monkey found pure joy!

  5. elz

    I could feel your pride when you tweeted about the baseball game this weekend. And, I’m all verklempt imagining the crack-thump-run. How impressive. That Monkey is a keeper.

  6. Jen

    OK time to STOP making me cry! How WONDERFUL for Monkey! I’m so happy you found this group and found the courage to go… I SO wish there was a group like that for my own Monkey here in Michigan. I’ve wished a thousand times that Special Olympics would widen their scope of participants so that my aspie could participate. Thanks for posting this. So happy for you and Monkey!! :)

  7. Deirdre

    *sniff* It sounds like a wonderful day for all of you.

  8. Sheila

    That’s all I can muster today.

  9. ks grandma

    I believe that your timing was perfect! Now about that acceptance of self that you are hoping for Monkey to embrace? Model that. You are all doing just fine. (Except for the kicking yourself part – hopefully you can lose that soon.)

  10. Mary

    It may not have gone so beautifully if you had gone sooner. Everything in its own time.
    I felt like I was there and it was great!

  11. Megan

    Wonderful! Like so many things that ‘freak us out,’ once we have some experience, something real as opposed to something imagined, the fear and discomfort melts away. So glad Monkey has a Lemur – and that Lemur has a Monkey too!

  12. Amy

    It’s not even “Love Thursday” and you’re already tearing me up!!

  13. Jen

    Yay! I love a happy story!

  14. Someone

    Thank you. I needed to hear a good and uplifting kid story today.

    Do not kick yourself, he needed to be ready, and now he is.

  15. Karen

    It’s a beautiful thing. :-)

  16. Jen

    oh, and I should have said “YAY!!!” for Monkey having a friend! J hasn’t been able to do that yet – some people at the high school are telling me that his sophomore/junior years, he will blossom more – he’s been amazing this last year, but still no friends. A friend would be nice in *my* opinion, but apparently J does fine without one. I need to remember that what *I* have as a need (at least one close friend), may not be what *he* needs to be happy in life.

  17. Karate Mom

    I think that this is my most favorite thing I’ve read in a long time. I’m so glad that Monkey had fun and that Licorice made a new friend, too.

  18. Tammy

    I’m jUmPiNg Up AnD dOwN for you Mir! So glad everyone enjoyed themselves. And, you just missed the cutoff for deportation when it comes to not schooling your child in the ways of America’s Pastime…it’s today. ;)

    The part that made me laugh the most was: “You just keep running counter-clockwise each time someone hits the ball!” Gotta love his outlook on things!!

  19. Jean

    We don’t have working crystal balls and hindsight isn’t perfected just yet. Others have said what I will repeat. You can’t know that it would’ve worked out as well earlier. It’s working now and go with that.

    It’s great that Monkey was so accomodating. Sounds like it was a lovely time all around. Good for all of you.

  20. Aimee

    This? Is AWESOME! So happy for you and Monkey and Licorice and Lemur and Licorice’s new friend!

  21. KarenP

    So glad Monkey had a wonderful time! The teenager that was so gentle and willing to give Licorice a chance to warm up to him was great too!

  22. midj

    Amy beat me to it. I was thinking, “Is it Thursday already?” :-)

  23. TC

    Could you install a “like” button on your blog, please? No. A “LOVE IT” button!

  24. ramblin red

    Awww….yay, this is triumphant and endearing to read :)

  25. Heidi

    Oh hooray! Just onderful. And I think I love Lemur’s mom.

  26. Heidi

    Or, wonderful. You decide.

  27. Traci

    Oh how I wish we had a group like that for my 9-year-old son!!! He’s not an Aspie, but has many of the tendencies (my younger brother does have Aspergers, so I see the similarities). My son just started his second year of baseball, but I’m afraid it may be his last. He is the “day-dreamer” that is always grooming the field or dancing or … pretty much everything you described. He loves baseball and plays well when he’s focused, but the other kids often take issue with the fact that he isn’t always 100% there. I wish he could be surrounded by kids who also take joy in the game while allowing time for everyone to just be themselves. Congrats on finding a great place for Monkey!

  28. Headless Mom

    Now THAT is what baseball is all about. Yay Monkey!

    Our Little League has a challenger division that has all ages, doesn’t keep score, and sounds just like your game. Except that they have uniforms. There are 6 teams (it has grown from only 2 teams a few years ago, we’re the only one in the area,) and all of the ‘regular’ teams are invited to help. It is so, so, so great to see each child get a buddy for the day. Excellent lessons can be learned on the field, and I’m always so proud of my boy when he goes to help.

  29. meghann

    The insecure side of me is wondering if the kid he doesn’t want to play with again is Ryan. I had been hoping to come up again sometime this summer, because Ryan’s friend list is now very short indeed.

  30. Half Assed Kitchen

    That’s so great. My son might even like something along these lines.

  31. Kristi

    You know, things happen at their own pace for a reason. If you had taken him sooner, who knows if it would have been a totally different experience. No kicking yourself! So happy for you and Monkey!

  32. Laura

    This post makes me giggle. It reminds me of my son, Sam, who has Down Syndrome. We were on a baseball team exactly like this for many years but now that he is 16 he has moved on to other interests. I kind of miss it.

    The thing that really makes me laugh though is remembering when we were first learning the ropes of this team and my Sam, a total baseball junkie, would really get disgusted at the girls in the outfield who were picking flowers and “not focusing on the game” (his exact words). Or when he would tag someone out and they still got to run the bases. He is pretty concrete in his thinking and to him the rules are the rules darn it! He eventually understood though, and we had many awesome years with our team. Sniff…now I’m all nostalgic. Special Olympics is keeping us pretty busy these days though.

    Ahh the good ol’ days. I hope you get as many years of enjoyment out of your team as we did out of ours.


  33. Mom

    Yay Mir. Yay Monkey. Yay Lemur and his mom and his brothers. And rrrrrufffff for Licorice.

  34. RuthWells

    Hooray for Monkey! Wonderful story — I’m glad you wrote it down for posterity.

  35. Pepper

    This just made my day!

  36. Jamie

    Tears of joy!!!

  37. Katie in MA

    But you know what? Maybe last week he wouldn’t have been as cool with it. Everything comes into our lives as just the right time, I think. So don’t kick yourself too much – you were due a totally awesome day like that. :) Baseball, grilled cheese, and caterpillars – doesn’t get any better than that!

  38. jessica


    You are great. And shoot if you didnt take him sooner, cuz then it would not have been as awesome!!!

  39. dad

    In case you hadn’t noticed kiddo…you are on a roll. In the passed two weeks your blog’s batting average for making me either cry or snort laughing is over 800. That is easily enough to win a batting title.
    You seem to have found the delicate balance between poignancy and sarcasm.

  40. Sarah

    Bawling. Thanks a lot. Really.

  41. liz

    Yay for Monkey!!! So proud of him! And you – for taking the plunge.

  42. J from Ireland

    Bawling here too. Well done Monkey and yes you are brilliant at baseball now!!!

  43. el-e-e

    I cry watching my 5yo at T-ball, too, even here at the end of the season when I’m actually pretty sick of it. It’s just so sweet and apple-pie-y — life’s perfect moments kind of thing. Way to go, Monkey! I am so excited for you guys.

  44. Dawn

    Oh, that Monkey. He’s the best Monkey in the world. I’m glad he and Lemur found each other.

    Y’know, Monkey’s mom is not so bad, either…

  45. Melanie

    I love love love this post! And I adore Monkey’s description of running the bases! Counter-clock-wise! Because that’s how my own Monkey would describe it….

  46. ChristieNY

    beautiful! I’m so happy for Monkey and his newfound love of baseball and acceptance of new friends! you’re an awesome Mama. now off to get Monkey a glove! ;)

  47. Cindy

    Ahhhhh. I’m so happy for you. That is wonderful. I have tears in my eyes just reading it.

  48. Jane

    Yay! I am so happy for you and Monkey and everyone else on that field. Bringing Licorice was a brilliant idea.

  49. Jennifer

    I am sobbing at my screen.

    The timing was right. It probably will never occur to Monkey that you could have gone earlier. So just go with it.

  50. Brigitte

    Life Lesson #93 That Mir Has Taught Me: always keep a box of tissues next to your computer *sniff!*

  51. Tracy H

    You have me in tears! So happy for Monkey & you!

  52. Krista Wilcox

    My mom told me I should check out your blog. We’re in the process of getting my son diagnosed with Asperger’s. It’s been a long, hard road. Thank you for sharing! I hate to say it, but Burp would have a total meltdown playing baseball this way. “Um, you’re not following the rules. There are rules to this game. Um, excuse me. HEY!… That’s not the rules. BUT YOU CAN’T DO THAT! THAT’S NOT RIGHT! WHAT ARE YOU DOING? OH MY GOD! THAT’S CHEATING!!!!”
    I’m glad Monkey has flexibility and can enjoy it.

  53. Debra

    I think you probably took him at just the right time for him. I get the feeling you are going to meet some great people out there. What a great story, you had me in tears.

  54. MyFaithandJoy

    I burst into happy tears for Monkey’s heroic hit as well! OK, this sounds corny, but I just now saw a beautiful yellow butterfly outside my window, and it made me wonder – maybe with the help of Lemur, Lemur’s family, and some good ol’ fashioned teamwork, Monkey’s started to find his wings! :)

  55. Crista

    Yay for Monkey! This is very awesome :D

  56. Cele

    Mir you give so many people hope everyday. Thank you for the love, the insights, the patience and the days when your patience is wearing thin. I imagine you’ve not clue how many people you, Monkey, Chickie and Otto give hope and reassurance to.

  57. Becky

    Good for both of you. And for the pup.

  58. Tiffany

    Mir, Im late in reading this…but the tears are flowing. I am sooo happy to hear Monkey had a good time. I battle the same things with Emily and while Id love her to play sports with the disabled kids, she i dont think would act completely correct and that horrifies me.

  59. statia

    Don’t kick yourself. It takes awhile to gear yourself up for something, especially when you’re more certain that you’ll get your hopes up or get excited to do something “normal”, only to get disappointed when there are tantrums and they get over sensory and everything else.

    It’s nice to be pleasantly surprised. And I’m happy he had such a great time playing. It gives me hope.

  60. Amelia

    oh, i LOVE this. so glad he had a good time. (and also? i think lemur’s mom sounds like a good mom to get to hang out with.)

  61. Dorothy

    This is awesome and makes me very, very happy for all of you!

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