Aspies certainly have their own way of thinking things through. One specific example I can remember is when we were at a Pony Club competition in Brooksville, Florida. My jaw dropped in disbelief as I saw my 16 year old daughter traipsing across the field towards the stables in nothing but her bikini.
A little background…
In the tradition of Pony Club, parents are relegated to the sidelines during youth equestrian competitions where the kids are supposed to work as a team and learn to do things for themselves, including being on time, caring for their horses and tack, and competing with minimal coaching. There are some very black-and-white rules they are to follow for stable management and safety. Although there are adults present to supervise for safety reasons, they are not allowed to give “unauthorized assistance.” This is in stark contrast to many of the typical horse shows we have attended where there are grooms, trainers, moms and dads all scrambling to make sure little Sally brings home a ribbon. I’ve been there, done that, got that t-shirt.
The experience of having horses and being a member of Pony Club has helped my daughter, who has Asperger’s Syndrome, to excel at a sport, form friendships, and enjoy a healthy outdoor activity, not to mention learning how to advocate for herself, be part of a team, and deal with both success and disappointment.
At this particular competition, we had a wonderful competition experience. Good scores, no meltdowns, no falls or injuries, generally happy, but tired, kids. Just before the awards ceremony which caps the competition before we all leave, the heavens opened and it started pouring rain. Kids huddled in their tack stalls with snacks and sodas, and occasionally snuck out to the trailers to begin loading supplies for the trip home. Parents huddled under eaves, umbrellas, and large, shady oak trees.
At the moment I saw my daughter making her way to the stables from our trailer in the parking area, scantily clad in a bikini with bare feet, I could not believe my eyes. I was in quite the quandary. Although I knew this was a huge safety violation and very inappropriate attire for the surroundings, but I was glued to the spot, also knowing that if I (as a parent) ran over there to stop her, she could face much worse consequences for the “unauthorized assistance.” So, I had to stand there and watch other parents staring in disbelief. Shortly afterward, a rally official took her aside and I was called in to the officials’ tent to address the situation.
When we asked her why she made that decision, she was very matter-of-fact, “It’s raining and I didn’t want my clothes and shoes to get soaking wet, so I figured why not just put on my bathing suit?” Although this was entirely inappropriate at a competition where she should have remembered how important the safety of shoes and clothing are in the stable area, it made perfect sense to her. She was reminded of the safety rules and sent back to the trailer to change into more suitable clothing and paddock boots. Afterward, I explained her Asperger’s Syndrome to the official. Luckily, since the scores were already completed, the rally was almost over and people wanted to get on the road home, she was let off the hook quietly.
Just goes to show how Aspies have a different way of thinking!