How not to bowl

Bowling has always been a favorite thing of Dude’s. Back in the day, we would videotape the PBA tournament on ESPN for him every single Sunday. Dude watched the tapes on repeat. For a while there, I could name the top 20 bowlers on the PBA tour off the top of my head.. Not a skill I ever thought I would have.

Since Dude moved out, he joined a Special Olmypics bowling league. We thought he enjoyed it, but it recently came to our parents’ attention that Dude has on several occasions refused to get out of the car to go participate. Based on some anecdotes, it sounds like the place is a sensory nightmare, and since Dude can’t say, “Hey, I physically cannot handle this,” the best way he communicates it is by refusing to budge from the sensory safety of the car.

This past Sunday, Mom and Dad decided they would take Dude to a quieter bowling alley so they could observe his behaviors and figure out if they could help problem solve the Special Olympics issue.

The first game passed without incident. And then.. Then the second game started.

(Sadly, I was not present for this, but I made my parents describe it to me in painstaking detail, so hopefully I do it justice.)

At the beginning of the second game, Dude is standing near the ball return with his arms folded across his chest. Dad encourages him to pick up his ball and get the game started. Dude doesn’t move. Dad lightly tugs on his arm. Dude doesn’t move.

Without warning, Dude (in a fit of rage–reasons unknown) springs into action. He lunges for the closest bowling ball, which isn’t his and is 2-4lbs heavier than his typical one. He runs toward the lane, stops at the foul line, and HURLS the ball down the lane in a perfectly executed basketball chest pass (aka sooo not how you bowl). The bowling ball flies about 8 feet down the lane before it even hits the ground.

Keep in mind that Dude has ridiculously low muscle tone, which means that there is hardly ever any force or oomph to his movements, so a 10lb bowling ball flying 8 feet through the air is pretty darn impressive.

But Dude isn’t done.

He decides to take off running down the lane AFTER the bowling ball.

The thing about bowling lanes? They’re slippery.

So Dude is slipping and sliding down the alley, and Dad takes off after him. Our 6’4″ father demonstrates something akin to a tightrope walker crossed with a first time ice skater and manages to catch Dude before he dives headfirst into the pins at the end of the lane.

Mom is standing next to the ball return, mouth agape, shoulders slacking, arms hanging loosely by her sides with her palms turned out in supplication to the universe. She manages to pull herself together enough to turn toward the employee counter and cry, “Can someone HELP US?!”

Two little boys from a birthday party a few lanes away abandon their game and watch the scene unfold with wide eyes.

Dad catches up with Dude about 6 feet from the pins and has a firm grasp on his arm. Dude is bent over at the waist, staring into the pins where the ball has since disappeared, thinking who knows what.

The teenager from behind the counter slowly meanders up to Mom and comes to a stop next to her.

He clears his throat, turns toward our shell-shocked mother, and says, “I’m really impressed. Other people never get that far.”

What can I say? We like to keep it interesting.


Dude’s Bowling Birthday Party


Angry Birds cake! And yes. We specifically asked the bakery to write “Dude.”

This past Sunday, Dude had his first birthday party in YEARS. The rule in our extended family was that the cousins stopped having birthday parties after age 13. Dude was the exception and got some bowling birthday parties for an extra few years of his teens. Overall though, Dude was never big on birthday parties (read: he ran away and cried when we sang “Happy Birthday”), so when they stopped, this wasn’t a big loss for him.

However, given all the upheaval of the past few months, Mom decided Dude deserved a birthday party with all his nearest and dearest.

The gathering included: our nuclear family, two sets of aunts and uncles, two cousins, two grandparents, Dude’s roommate, a staffperson from his house, his house supervisor and her daughter, one of my best friends from high school, four of the young women who used to provide respite for Dude before he moved out, and the sister of one of the respite girls.

Basically, Dude is a boss.

Prior to going bowling, the family members who hadn’t seen Dude’s house before received the grand tour.

My one cousin is subscribed to this blog (Hi N!!!) and is a Penn State alum. Therefore, she read my post from a couple weeks ago regarding the Penn State/Maryland game. I overheard her asking Dude, “Who’s going to win? Maryland or Penn State?”

God bless him, Dude answered, “Maryland!”

“AHA!” I exclaimed.

“Umm, he definitely said Penn State,” she responded sheepishly. “Come on, Dude!” she tried again. “Who’s going to win?”

“Maryland!” Dude responded.

He’s allowed back in the family now :).



Smirking while receiving karate chop back pats from his cousin.

Dude was all sorts of happy at the bowling alley. He smiled and giggled and recited his favorite phrases to anyone who would listen to him.

At the word “presents,” Dude’s head WHIPPED around like a dog when you say the word “walk.” He happily opened cards (you can tell his extended network knows him well because the majority of them got him cards that play music when you open them) and pulled tissue paper out of gift bags.

He was a far, far cry from the seven-year-old Dude I watched in a home video back in January.

And here’s the kicker.


Maybe my memory is broken, but I literally do not remember him EVER successfully blowing out candles unassisted. Because of his hypotonia, Dude is a shallow breather. Combine that with his motor difficulties and the seemingly simple concept of blowing out a candle becomes anything but.

It took him 23 years, but he’s gotten really good at this birthday party thing.


This is what I imagine Dude’s body language says: “Yea.. I just blew out my candles and opened up all my presents with minimal assistance. Don’t act like you’re not impressed.”

Dude, The Master of Surprise

Ok there are two parts to today’s story. Dad texted me Sunday night to convey two Dude-isms from the day. I’ve decided to type out the text conversation here, but first you need some background.

Back story #1

Lately, Dude has been doing a lot of initiating. It’s highly unusual and our family is still amazed every time it happens. We’re especially amazed when he initiates something as it relates to his personal comfort. Dude rarely voices whether he is hot, cold, sick, etc. because he simply doesn’t have those descriptive language skills. Our immediate family is so attuned to his body language that we know what to watch for and how to accommodate his needs accordingly.

Back story #2

Dude goes through phases of being absolutely, positively obsessed with things. For a very long time, it was bowling. Very, seriously bowling. We had to tape every single broadcast of the PBA tour (on VHS tapes!) which he would watch and rewind over and over and over to the point that the sound started to become warped. For well over a year, there wasn’t a single day that bowling was not on the TV at our house. And we’re one of those weird families that only has one TV, so when Dude was in control of it, you either had to sit there and suffer through it, or you had to occupy yourself elsewhere in the house.

And then, suddenly, bowling was no longer his favorite obsession.

But now, we’re back on to bowling again! I was visiting my family this weekend and made sure to record Sunday’s broadcast of the PBA tour for Dude before I left.

Back story #3

When Dude was diagnosed, early intervention wasn’t enough. Our parents set up an intense Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA) in-home program that supplemented his early intervention hours as well as out of home speech, physical, and occupational therapy.

Even today, our basement is an homage to the years of therapy that Dude received in our house. (Read: we haven’t gotten around to going through all the old toys and donating them yet.)

One of the things that still survives down in the basement is his old exercise/therapy ball.

We used the ball as a therapy tool to try to help him create more awareness about his body and improve his muscle tone. He was so floppy when he was younger that the PT suggested that sitting on this during his therapy sessions might help him improve his muscle tone and balance.

It could also be a tool of fun! During breaks, sometimes the therapists would bounce Dude on it, much to his delight.

Anyway, when I was home this past weekend, I noticed that the exercise ball had migrated upstairs to the family room for the first time in over 10 years (no exaggeration). I chalked it up to Mom wanting to have options for in-home exercise when she couldn’t get to YMCA. The ball was propped up against the hearth, just underneath the TV.


Whew. Ok. That was a lot of background info. You with me so far? Now, onto the story!

Dude-ism #93

Dad (8:55pm): Dude asked to put on his gray coat. I asked him if he was cold. He said yes. I offered his blue fleece. “No. Gray coat please.” So now he is pacing the kitchen wearing his gray coat!

Me (8:56pm): His outdoor coat?!? Weird!

Dad (8:56pm) Exhibit A.









Me (8:58pm): Tell Dude I said he’s silly and he makes me laugh.

Dad (9:00pm): Dude says “yeah, yeah” (with emphatic head bobs).

Dad (9:01pm): BTW – he watched some of the bowling today sitting on the exercise ball. He did it on his own!

Me (9:02pm): What???? Who IS this person??

Dad (9:03pm): I KNOW!!!! He is really doing LOTS of interesting things!