FROM THE WASHINGTON POST Barry and Kim Trotz figured familiarity could guide their youngest child through the biggest change of his life, so first they made sure to find 13-year-old Nolan a decent Tex-Mex restaurant. On the eve of Washington Capitals training camp, the final day of the offseason, the family dined at El Paso Cafe in Arlington, where Nolan had grown to love the salsa during their regular stops since moving here this summer.
“He’s a staple guy,” Barry Trotz says of his son, who was born with Down syndrome. But the new Capitals head coach also knows Nolan as many other things: a fearless adventurer, a strong swimmer, an ace at Wii baseball, a lover of spicy foods, a flirt around his sister’s friends and a prankster at dinner parties, a kid whose smile made hockey losses feel okay.
Raising a special needs son, the Trotzes usually worry about not doing enough, but in their new city, they lately have been feeling like they have too much piled on their plates.
They picked their Clarendon home based on Nolan’s needs, and at first it seemed ideal: grassy parks down the block, middle school within biking distance (either Barry or Kim steering the family tandem and Nolan riding in back), neighboring adults who invited them to an ice cream party and whose daughters knocked on the front door to invite Nolan to play kickball.
“Which never happens when you have a special needs kid,” Barry said.
But summer soon ended. No more knocking, no more kickball. Then school started, and Nolan’s teacher was great, but a new environment with less individual attention led to acting out in class. At home, Nolan had grown quieter since the family completed its move in late August. Vocalizing his feelings had always been a struggle, a product of his condition.
“I wish we could get in there for a couple minutes,” Kim said, meaning Nolan’s thoughts.