Growing up as someone on the autism spectrum, I never really fit in anywhere. Rather than joining others in team sports or hanging out at the mall, I’d be out looking for coins with my metal detector or studying sign language. You could definitely say I had some unique interests.
One day, my mom found a catalog for the night school program in my area. It listed some more common classes such as cooking or writing. But she noticed a specific class titled “Juggling? Of Course You Can!” I thought it was so different, so of course I had to try it!
I enjoyed the class immensely. I wasn’t great at juggling, but I really liked the positive attitude of the instructor, Randy. And when he told me that there was a free, local juggling group called The Turks Head Jugglers, I was thrilled!
I showed up to the group’s gym with my own juggling props: stacking cups (not the little ones, but sport-stacking ones). For the first time in my life, I felt like I belonged. Instead of the usual strange looks, I saw smiles. People were interested in what I was doing…and I was interested in the many different props that they were using. From juggling clubs to the diabolo (a kind of yo-yo), to tossing rings and more, there was just so much to try! And the best part was the fact that I could try them all.
Everyone was welcome to ask to try a new prop. Everyone was always so encouraging to each other. We all shared tips and tricks when we could. And newcomers were greeted with enthusiasm. Kids who came rarely got into trouble simply because they were so intrigued with everything they saw. The Turks Head Jugglers really made me feel accepted. I could be myself there.
And although I haven’t had much time for stacking cups or juggling anymore, I still try to head over to the gym for a visit once in a while. Each time I do, I find myself inspired by their encouragement. I feel welcome and accepted. For me, as someone on the autism spectrum, that is an awesome feeling.
If you or someone you know is looking for a group like this, there are lots of ways to find one. See if there is an adult evening school catalog for your area, and look at the classes they offer. You could look at a local college or school district and check out the list of clubs they have. You can also check out your local Department of Recreation. If you are looking specifically for a juggling group, check out this list of clubs by the International Jugglers’ Association. Above all, follow your interests, and don’t forget to have fun!