Parent Tips: Competing in the Autism Olympics

By Shelly McLaughlin, Director of Communications, Pathfinders for Autism

Marathon movie watching
Today’s technology has really enhanced this sport. Long gone are the days when you had to visit a video store and then return your movie – REWOUND – within a certain time period. Or harken back to the Stone Age, back when you had to wait for a movie to come to theaters, and once it was gone, it was GONE FOREVER. Now, you can download your favorite movie of the moment to your mobile device and carry it with you 24/7. My son is on his 83rd consecutive hour of “Weird Science.”

Directionless fast walking
This activity requires more cardio stamina than previously credited. This pacing-related movement also necessitates a great deal of mental endurance as I believe that it is during this time that solutions to the world’s problems and life-altering inventions are being formulated.

LEGO® building
Seriously, how is this NOT an Olympic event??? It calls for the precision of biathlon shooting, the creativity of slopestyle, the beauty of ice dancing, and the swiftness of speed skating. Lego building also includes the risk of serious injury like downhill skiing from stepping on a LEGO® brick. 

Awkward costuming
Years ago on one of my New Year’s Resolution lists, I vowed to wear a pirate costume to Target just to see if it really is that awesome. I was inspired by my son, who to this day still leaves the house at times in a top hat and pin striped blazer matched with snow boots (even if it’s July). Sure, fashion plays a large role in figure skating and now curling, but do they tell the story of the wearer? And are these other athletes challenged to find outfits that can possibly meet the criteria of sensory-acceptable, color-perfect, smell-able, and character-worthy? (BTW, if someone sends me a pirate costume, I swear I’ll wear it.)

Mom triathlon
A slalom through Thomas the Tank Engine tracks leads to the more difficult apple-juice covered floor slide (style points count). Before reaching the finish line, sleep deprived athletes must compete for both accuracy and distance in the backpack long-throw.

Flexibility training
Wipe the graceful, fully extended limbs yoga pictures out of your mind. This conditioning sport requires strict composure while news is delivered that a favorite after-school activity is canceled, a wanted LEGO® set is discontinued, an additional homework assignment is added, a TV show is removed from the On Demand menu, and the sauce recipe has changed at your local pizza shop.

Eidetic geographic memorization
Admit it. Watching the Olympics is the ONLY time you can look at a world map and label it with countries you forgot existed since the previous Olympics. However, for our loved ones with brains that store every image ever seen as a perfect photograph, this is an easy medal event.

IEP hurdles
Contestants begin at Point A and are challenged to dress and feed and three picky-eaters before tossing them on a bus (throws judged for accuracy), lint roll 1 lb 3 oz of dog hair and crumbs off their clothing, apply makeup and style hair during 10-second stop sign intervals, enter a non-familiar building, present 11 forms of ID, weave through a hallway similar to a Halloween corn maze, attempt to note the names of 16 meeting attendees, request eight new assessments, build a debate case to maintain 17 services, re-negotiate six previous IEP goals, race back through the hallway maze, stop a 4 ton tow truck from removing your car from the bus lane, and drive back to Point A. All of these tasks must be completed within 90 minutes.

Spaghetti wire identification
You may not recognize the term, but I guarantee you’ve seen it. Seventeen or more tangled wires plugged into the back of your computer or TV. This becomes a sport when you race to identify the source of each wire. The record holder once identified 32 wires in 6.3 seconds.

Caregiver shopping sprint
Modeled closely after a Mission Impossible© scene, this course is set in a grocery store setting. Runners start a 500 meter sprint across a parking lot after a child who is not watching for cars. This is closely followed by the lifting and carrying of a combined child weight of 140 lbs. Once inside, racers hurdle stacked boxes of Rice Krispies®, scavenge for the last pack of Ballpark® Beef Bun Length Hot Dogs, dash past the overly-fragrant floral department, negotiate a trade of Swedish Fish® for equally tasty gummy vitamins, and all before the course pharmacy closes.

© 2014 Pathfinders for Autism – See more [pdf].