Sunday, September 21, 2014

Football changes everything for autistic teen

Very cool story about an inspirational teen.

Josh Bailey walked across the sideline at Lakeland High School — a teenager with autism playing on a varsity football team — and if the story ended right there, it would be amazing, heartwarming and an inspiration on its own.

But there is so much more.

"Come on," Bailey screamed at his teammates.

There was a time when Bailey couldn't talk — one of the traits of autism is delayed speech, and he didn't learn to speak until he was 3½.

"Get your pads on!" he said.

There was a time when he was awkward, extremely shy and sensitive to loud noises — other traits of autism.

"Let's go!" he said, confidently. Authoritatively.

There was a time when he didn't have any passion and he was depressed.

"Come on!" he said, his face full of excitement.

But football changed everything. It unlocked a passion and fire in him. Football gave him a new set of friends and helped him fit into his high school in White Lake Township.

"Come on!" he said.

Bailey, a senior offensive tackle, who stands 6-feet-6 and weighs 270 pounds, led his teammates to the end zone to start stretching. He was selected a captain of the team for the first week of practice — Lakeland uses rotating captains — and he also was selected a captain for the first game against
Northville.

This was not some feel-good appointment. No, he earned it. He has the respect and admiration of his teammates because he never missed a conditioning workout during the off-season, and nobody worked harder in the weight room, and nobody is more focused, and nobody loves this team more. He is fixated on football. Everything about football. The workouts. The training. The routine. The practices. The team.

People with autism often thrive on routine and have highly fixated interests.

"I'm autistic and proud," Bailey said. "I'm not afraid to be open about it. I've been through a lot through autism. I turned it from something that hindered me as a child and now I can show people,

'Hey, a kid with autism is making it in football.'

"People can call me an inspiration, but I'm just living my dream. I got through a lot and I'm still here standing. I may fall but I will not give up. I will keep rising again."

I found this on Detriot Free Press

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