As we welcome 2021, it is time to release our first Spautism Global Spectrum of the new year.
We have collated just some of the many stories that caught our eye over the last month from across the world. You can see all of last year’s Global Spectrum articles here.
Christmas came early for citizens of Pendleton, Indiana, after the town’s new Community Sport & Wellness centre opened on 14th December. The sport and recreation facility welcomes neurotypical and neurodiverse people after it was officially approved by Sensory City as a sensory-friendly establishment. It is the first fitness centre in the Midwest to have received this certificate, with plans to roll out specific sensory sessions in addition to the facilities and fun spaces that are currently on offer.
In this article by Chessbase, an anonymous author who has Asperger’s explained theirrelationship with chess. They revealed some advantages of being on the autism spectrum and the joys of finding a special interest, as well as touching on the positive impact chess has had on developing cognitive and social skills having found like-minded people at tournaments, which they discussed more in Autism in Chess part two. The articles are insightful first-person accounts of the potential benefits that sport and competition can bring.
In the middle of the night, three months ago, Matt DiNote woke up with an idea that went on to raise awareness of autism and almost $17,000 in funds for Eden Autism. Inspired by his brother, who has autism and Down Syndrome, Matt cycled across the entire width of the USA, covering more than 5,000 miles and finishing in his home state of New Jersey surrounded by his extremely proud family.
As a professional ice hockey player who wanted to make a difference in his community, Nic Dowd created Dowd’s Crowd with his wife Paige more than two years ago, aiming to provide opportunities for children with autism to enjoy attending games. In December, the Washington Capitals player ran an auction that included signed merchandise, tickets, and an online call with himself and a teammate, to raise funds for the autism community. Some prizes were bought for as much as $1,500.
With December now upon us, we have got our final instalment of the Spautism Global Spectrum series for 2020, collating just some of the many stories that caught our eye over the last month from across the world.
Real Madrid is widely known as one of the most successful football clubs in the sport’s history, but the Spanish outfit’s charitable arm brings many other benefits and aspirations. In November, the Real Madrid Foundation’s Training Area began its eight-month Inclusive Sport course as part of its Sport&Values Academy, which involves 96 hours of online training around how sport can be made more accessible and enjoyable for diverse people, including people with autism.
More than 2,000 people recently attended Special Olympics Australia’s webinar series on delivering sport to autistic children in schools – an outstanding turnout that suggests an increased interest in autism awareness, as well as an understanding of the physical and social benefits of effective participation in sport. The series involved a range of speakers, including autistic individuals, and its success bodes well for everyone working for autism acceptance around the world.
Here is a great, uplifting story from the Oshkosh Northwestern about a senior high school student called Ryan Moon, who has autism. Ryan has found his happy place in the swimming pool as part of the Oshkosh West junior varsity boys swim and dive team – a small community that celebrate Ryan and his differences, and embrace him for the great person and swimmer that mum Joyce and coach Kelly Wayne know he is.
After stopping in-person classes and resorting to virtual sessions earlier in the year, Love Serving Autism received a $25,000 grant to ensure the non-profit organisation can continue and expand its great work in Palm Beach County, Florida, throughout the coming months. Love Serving Autism uses tennis to grow and develop autistic children, and will use the grant to ensure they can safely come together again to socialise through sport.
Another turn of the calendar means another chance to look at some of the many stories that caught our eye over the last month from across the world.
For this edition, we are looking back on October.
The general manager of NFL team Seattle Seahawks, John Schneider, spoke to The Seattle Times about a huge part of his life away from the American football pitch – his son, Ben. Now 18 years old, the Schneiders are supporting Ben in making his first steps as an adult, whilst seeing their charity Ben’s Fund going from strength to strength, raising money for families who live with autism. With COVID-19 cancelling the charity’s annual event plans, the Ben’s Fund auctioned signed Seahawks merchandise in October to continue generating financial support and awareness.
ACEing Autism was set up in 2008 to bring autistic children together through tennis, developing skills to serve them well not just on the court, but in life. It caught the attention of up and coming tennis player Melina Kopischkie, who despite only just starting at the Texas Christian University, has already displayed a passion to support others. Melina began her own ACEing Autism programme in Wisconsin and explained to BVM Sports how much she and the children have learnt.
In an eye-opening interview, Special Olympics Australia helped tell the story of Elise Muller, an elite athlete who plays for Aussie Rules team Essendon Football Club. It was a journey to the top that proved far from easy for Elise while feeling unaccepted in society, but she proved that people with autism can achieve their goals, and how the inclusivity of sport can be a life-changing vehicle. Sport also taught Elise much of the wisdom that she now shares with many others from a similar background.
Former Michigan State Spartans basketball player Anthony Ianni wrote a column in the Autism Parenting Magazine to recall how he defied doctors’ expectations to triumph in education and become the first known autistic player to feature in the highest level of college basketball. But he attributes his success to those closest to him by acknowledging his loving support network, and aims to inspire people to do the same for their families by remembering what is important in life.
With September turning into October, we have got our fifth instalment of the Spautism Global Spectrum series, collating just some of the many stories that caught our eye over the last month from across the world.
Feros Care has provided support for communities in Australia for the last 30 years, and in September, told the story of Corey – an inspirational autistic individual who took part in the National Disability Insurance Scheme. Despite dropping out of school in Year 9, Corey now works in agriculture and has achieved in sports such as basketball, table tennis, and ten pin bowling, whilst progressing through the Special Olympics programme.
Kalin Bennett is a man on a mission, and this inspirational story from Men's Health tells the story of how this autistic basketball fan went on to play in the NCAA Division 1, the highest level of college sport in the US. From using mathematics to understand the game, and opening up to his team-mates about his autism, Kalin has discovered success and happiness both on and off the court and wants to help others do the same.
We love this short story from Beijing Discovery, and of course, the smiles on everyone's faces. As a pair, retired ice skaters Pang Qing and Tong Jian won five Four Continents Championships and two World Championships, as well as managing silver in the 2010 Vancouver Olympic Games, and have continued to break barriers within their sport by teaching children with autism, Down’s syndrome, and Asperger's how to skate.
The new NFL season may have started this month, but it was a play from high school team Lockhart Lions that stole hearts on social media. The Lions and their opponents, Bastrop Bears, collaborated to provide much-loved autistic defensive linesman Desmond Pulliam with an opportunity to score his first-ever touchdown.
But we could not share this story without shouting out Ethan Collins, a linebacker for Cardinal Newman High School who has autism. He made local news by tackling the opposing quarter-back after coming on late in a game last month – the perfect way for an up and coming defensive player to make his mark.
As September rolls in, along with browning leaves and colder breezes, we have got our fourth instalment of the Spautism Global Spectrum series to keep you feeling summery inside.
Here are just some of the many stories that caught our eye over the last month from across the world.
This is not the first time Armani Williams has featured on Global Spectrum, a 20-year-old who consistently makes headlines as the first autistic NASCAR driver, and has done so again in August. On his home track, the youngster finished 10th in the ARCA Series to register his highest ever NASCAR placing, after a morning in which he featured on national television. Certainly a Sunday for Armani to remember.
Ashleigh Stewart, a journalist from Dubai, used her Twitter account to tell the story of Suleman Khan. The six-year-old promised to run 100km, hoping that more children would take up sport as a result. After making his commitment on 12th July, Suleman finished just over a month later, with many local runners having given up time to support him along the way.
On the Gaza Strip, bordering the Mediterranean Sea, Safaa Nassar managed a swimming summer camp designed for autistic children to develop key skills that are helpful in everyday life, such as cognitive movement and social interaction. Sanaa al-Safadi, the mother of 11-year-old participant Mohammed, has seen her son grow in confidence, while swimming coach Basheer Mushtaha aspires to use this as a turning point for autism opportunities in the local region.
Niel Thiart ran an incredible 239km in 48 hours to raise awareness and money for a local autism centre in South Africa – in case you were wondering, that’s almost 5km every hour! Friends supported him as he battled scorching days and cold nights, pushing through the pain barrier, be it from fatigue or injury. When it comes to raising awareness, this Bestmed Athletics Club member seems to have no limits.
From South Africa to North America, and from two feet to two wheels, as Raymond Bryant joined thousands of people in raising money for autism awareness in children by riding 100 miles on his bike in Delaware, USA. Raymond alone generated almost $6,500 from sponsors, more than any other rider, and featured on 47 ABC News.
With July turning into August, we have got our third instalment of the #spautism Global Spectrum series, collating just some of the many stories that caught our eye over the last month from across the world.
At the start of July, Netflix unveiled a new 40-minute documentary that follows Max Park and Feliks Zemdegs – two of the fastest Rubik’s cube solvers in the world. The Speed Cubers reveals how Feliks made it to the top, and how Max not only quickly followed suit, but how he and his family used the Rubik’s cube to help him tackle the world with autism. Together, Max and Feliks have dominated the world for a decade, and through their rivalry, formed the most powerful of friendships.
If bowling is your thing, this story will be right up your alley! On the other side of the world, Singapore Bowling Federation vice-president Valeri Teo led a 20 Strike Challenge to raise money for the country’s Autism Resource Centre. The event generated over $40,000 as Singapore’s best coaches and bowlers took on the challenge, with two former national competitors also helping to stage the event. The challenge involved bowling 20 strikes in as many minutes, and attempts were shared on social media.
For the full story, click here.
As a safe place for autistic children to interact and develop, Sport-Social’s return following months of closure from COVID-19 is wonderful news. The US-based organisation uses sport, art, and music as platforms for learning and growth, and moved into a new and much larger facility while coming out of lockdown. Strict safety protocols have been put in place, with children gently taught to wear masks – but nothing could hide their smiles.
Wilson Sporting Goods, one of the world’s leading sports manufacturers, has teamed up with Autism Speaks to create a line of baseball gear designed to raise awareness of autism and spread the message of inclusion. The bats and gloves include the blue colour of Autism Speaks, with the organisations pulling together to name the collection ‘Love the Moment’ – a fitting name for a worthy initiative.
To see the designs, click here.
With June turning into July, we’ve got our second instalment of the #spautism Global Spectrum series, collating just some of the many stories that caught our eye over the last month from across the world.
The Club Brugge Foundation, charitable arm of Belgian first division football team Club Brugge KV, was put under the spotlight by FIFA.com in honour of Autistic Pride Day on 18th June. The Voetbalkraks started in 2007 and provides autistic children a gateway to happy and healthy lives, encouraging learning and social interaction through football and their beloved team. The programme has six-times more participants than it did when it first began, giving many from the Club Brugge community the opportunity to grow and develop.
Over in the USA, Alternative Baseball has become quite the hit in south east Georgia. Proud autism advocate Taylor Duncan, who is also on the spectrum, had an idea that could provide baseball to teenagers and adults who generally have less opportunities to step up to the plate. Although named ‘Alternative’, the sport itself still adopts the classic baseball rules and now exists in 14 states, from Ormand Beach in Florida to Tacoma in Washington. But Taylor’s mission is far from over and he is on the lookout for more potential locations, like Delmarva in this story from 47 ABC.
For the full story, click here.
Armani Williams is a growing figure in the US as the first autistic NASCAR driver and made Detroit headlines this month with a feel-good story amidst trying times. In this short feature, Armani talks about his childhood obsession for cars through to modern-day culture, as well as the impact he is having in communities through the Armani Williams Race for Autism Foundation. This is just the start for the 20-year-old!
For the full story, click here.
OT Sports is a leading player in making custom uniforms for sports teams across the States, recently teaming up with professional ice hockey team Tulsa Oilers and minor league baseball outfit Tulsa Drillers to produce this masterpiece that was reshared on social media in June. The shirt was worn by Oilers players on their Autism Awareness Night back in November 2019; the auction post-match raising money for charity.
The Boccia International Sports Federation set out to increase awareness of boccia over in India through a development project that was designed to instil enthusiasm and drive participation. The Adapt Bandra Sports Centre was one of the project’s locations, involving children with autism, cerebral palsy and down’s syndrome who eagerly embraced the sport. Boccia is a Paralympic event where seated players propel balls to land as close to a marker as possible, similar to the game of bowls.
For the full story, click here.
For a time when life is, for the most part, at a standstill, there has been plenty going on in the world of sport and autism.
Therefore, in the first edition of our new #spautism Global Spectrum series, we round up just some of the many stories that have caught our attention from across the world, starting with a look back on May…
Over in Belmar on the east coast of the USA, way back in September, Surfers Healing ran their annual New Jersey meet, helping children with autism to feel comfortable in the water. Although sensory overloads can sometimes occur in noisy environments, research shows surfing is a therapeutic experience. In May, the Olympic Channel released a documentary on the event, following global surfing superstar Parker Coffin as he and other competitive wave-riders brought unrivalled happiness to families’ lives. If you needed something to make you smile, this is it.
Living in Johannesburg, South Africa, Isa Kajee is a motorsports fanatic, continuing to pursue an active lifestyle despite his non-verbal autism. One of his greatest passions is go-karting, Isa’s incredible determination prompting Parolin Racing South Africa to introduce a brand-new Special Needs Motorsport Academy, prioritizing participation, safety, and of course, enjoyment. And can you believe that Isa is only five years old? Nope, we didn’t either; his achievements often celebrated by his older brothers who also enjoy getting behind the wheel.
For the full story, click here.
Although perhaps not a feel-good story, unfortunately, not all is as rosy as we’d like it to be at the moment. The decision to postpone the 2021 Special Olympics GB National Summer Games in Liverpool was taken to protect athletes with intellectual disabilities who are more vulnerable to the threat of coronavirus. The country’s largest disability multi-sport event was set to see over 2,000 athletes competing next year, and efforts to reschedule are already in place to ensure the Games go ahead when it is safe to do so.
Ghana has developed a whole host of global sporting stars over the years, but like all countries across the world, many of them remain unsung. Last month, the Ghanaian Times shed light on a tremendous trio with a combined age of 24 years old. Phil Bertino, Prince Effah, and Michael Djanie all have autism and love cycling, sharing ambitions to reach the highest level of the sport under the wing of professional rider Isaac Sackey. The boys’ respective parents also revealed that cycling not only provides their children with pure joy but enhances their entire development.
For the full story, click here.