One of the classic signs of autism is having difficulty interacting appropriately in social situations. As such, it would seem that sports and team activities would be off the table. However, there are many athletes proving that autism hasn’t held them back on the field and they are achieving their dreams. These athletes are an inspiration and a role model for not just children with autism, but also their families and friends. Here are just a few of their stories:
Michael Brannigan: When it comes to running, nothing holds back Michael Brannigan. He can complete a mile in four minutes and seven seconds – far outpacing many other competitors and ranking him among the top 10 high school runners in the country in 2014. And this is a feat that Brannigan has accomplished despite having autism.
According to his mother, running has helped him to catch up with his peers socially and academically. He has the focus and determination to succeed. He runs more than 60 miles a week and hopes to one day earn a spot on the U.S. Olympic team.
Anthony Ianni: His future looked grim as his parents were told he would probably end up living in a group home. But Ianni had bigger dreams for his future. He overcame bullying and earned a spot on the Michigan State Spartans basketball team as a walk on. The team won the championship and Ianni credits his success to his hard work and perseverance. Today he is a role model and advocate for others with disabilities and for anti-bullying initiatives.
Jason McElwain: McElwain supported his high school basketball team as a team manager for a few years and assisted the coach in running practice. He handed out towels and water and got the team fired up. During the last game of the 2015 season, he actually suited up and sat on the bench, ready to play. The coach put him in for the last four minutes and McElwain took off. He scored 20 points total, many of them three-pointers. The crowd went wild and it was a time when feeling different was for an amazing reason. He continues to play basketball and also serves as a motivational speaker.
These athletes and so many more are living proof that hard work can pay off and no dream is out of reach. With the support of family, friends, and medical professionals, they are overcoming obstacles of living with autism and making great strides.
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