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When Sports Becomes a Small Matter: A Child and Autism

13th April 2008

UPDATE (Late March, 2010) This was my first entry made regarding autism, 5 days after our son was diagnosed as being on the ASD scale. Here is what we’re are doing for April of 2010 From Matt Kemp to Alyssa Milano to Peter Gammons, Sports and Entertainers Offer Assistance for Autism Awareness


There is no category for this topic here. There is baseball, basketball, hockey, football, and auto racing, but there is nothing for topics of far more importance.

This, being my personal blog, has been about commentary on sports. It has never been about my views on matters outside of that.

And, it has never been a place where you would find anything personal. Today, that changes as I find myself placed in a new cause. It is one that touches myself, my family, and as I will outline below, a growing and alarming number of families.

Over the past year, our youngest son has not been developing at the rate that most children do. At first, we chalked this up to him just not accelerating at the rate of our first son, who was ahead of the curve. Now, coming up on the age of three, we saw that he was not communicating, even on rudimentary levels such as pointing when he wanted something. Only when prompted would he respond verbally to a very small list of known words. Things that we initially thought were cute were really signs of something else. There was the jumping up and down when he was excited, spinning in circles, and the one we thought was the funniest… never calling me “Daddy”, but rather, “Mamma. “

Given these signs, we met with his pediatrician and from there, other specialists. The diagnosis was that our son is autistic.

As my wife and family come to grips to this news, we now find ourselves in a life altering experience. The good news is that with early detection, one-on-one and what is called “mainstream” therapy, we can hope that our son will eventually be a productive part of society. What was alarming to me was the incredible trend of more and more being diagnosed within the ASD spectrum. There was a point where the word “autism” would elicit confused stares. Now, nearly everyone in America has a family member or friend touched by ASD.

Based upon this, I am challenging all that have a platform to do so, to link to this news below, or pass it along. Call it the sports autism challenge, whatever. The hope is that by getting this news to as many as possible in the hope that others can be educated.

The following information comes by way of the Autism Society of America:

  • 1 out of 150 children in U.S.
  • 1 out of 90 boys
  • Affects four times as many boys as girls
  • Lifetime cost of caring for a child with autism: $3.5 to $5 million
  • Current annual cost to U.S.: $35 billion
  • Estimated annual cost by 2010: $90 billion
  • 1.5 million Americans affected

Researching has found information that will be valuable to my wife and I, and some indications that we now see as classic traits of autism spectrum disorder that are within our son’s behavior. Passing some of these behavioral traits along may help you, or someone you know, get their child to their pediatrician for an evaluation. Early detection is critical as the earlier a child is enrolled in therapy, the better the odds are that when they grow older they will be able to function in society.

Here are some signs to look for in the children in your life:

  • Lack of or delay in spoken language
  • Repetitive use of language and/or motor mannerisms (e.g., hand-flapping, twirling objects)
  • Little or no eye contact
  • Lack of interest in peer relationships
  • Lack of spontaneous or make-believe play
  • Persistent fixation on parts of objects
  • Reaching a development milestone only to see regressively disappear
  • Odd dietary behaviors, such as eating only starches
  • No fear of danger

How can you help? Donate. Spread the word.

To Donate:

Donate to the Autism Society of America

As I said, there is no category here for social causes. However, this is the one time it seemed appropriate and a responsibility to do so. If you know someone with autism, please leave your comments.


OTHER NEWS ACROSS THE BUSINESS OF SPORTS NETWORK


Maury Brown

Maury Brown is the Founder and President of the Business of Sports Network, which includes The Biz of Baseball, The Biz of Football, The Biz of Basketball and The Biz of Hockey. He is contributor to Baseball Prospectus, and is available as a freelance writer.

Brown’s full bio is here. He looks forward to your comments via email and can be contacted through the Business of Sports Network.

3 Responses to “When Sports Becomes a Small Matter: A Child and Autism”

  1. maury Says:

    After this posting, news is coming regarding businesses that support autism research and funding. For one, the May issue of Rockies Magazine will future a story on an autistic girl.

    The other is that Noah’s Pretzels is working toward autism awareness. Noah’s Pretzels are available at several ballparks, I’m told.

    More info, as it becomes available. Thanks again for your support.

  2. maury Says:

    A couple of comments…

    My wife and I have been overwhelmed by the outpouring of well-wishes that we have received since I let this news be known. Words fail me in saying how thankful and grateful we are.

    I am most pleased is seeing the number of bloggers in the sports community rally around making the data presented within known so that other families can understand autism.

    We are also extremely grateful for those that have been touched by autism sharing their experiences. These stories help immensely in one of our anxieties: what does the future hold for our son? While we know that every person is unique, it allows us to see real cases and understand what therapy can do.

    Here’s what wasn’t expected…

    To be clear, we are not interested in some of the battles waging with regards to how organizations are viewed. This isn’t a call to debate the merits of treatments — good or bad — or the political arguments regarding organizations. This is a call for awareness so that every child that maybe autistic is afforded the best treatment they can at the earliest stages. I understand, and thank those, who have written or posted about these issues, and wish them the best. But, the postings that I will be hoping arrive here are much as most that have arrived in my in-box: here’s the story of my son or daughter, and here is the philosophies that helped us through it. Here is my story of having ASD.

    As mentioned, we thank those with sincere hearts, but the only political issue I will be engaging in has to do with awareness and funding to better understand ASD.

    Thanks again, all. By visiting, this thread, you show you care.

  3. Maury Brown Says:

    Looking back over my article, I can see the need to add a couple of other comments, so if you would be so kind, let me entertain you…

    This may be obvious to many, but to be safe, certainly the intent here is to not offend anyone. This is about informing those that may not know about ASD, or for those that may see a child at risk for ASD.

    What this is really about is challenging the conventional wisdom of society as to what “normal” is. Travis should be Travis. Society will, unfortunately at some point, label him as “that autistic kid/person.” My wife and I are extremely passionate about seeing the potential in everyone. Every person brings something valuable to the table, and it is a matter of society learning to adjust their view to a more passionate way of thinking. We all have our foibles. No one is immune. Far too often, we look at the outward appearance, and miss the inner value. For all we know, Travis may grow up and be brilliant in mathematics, medicine, or elsewhere. His ASD will part of him, but not what he is.

    As parents, it is our job to see that our children reach their full potential, no matter what starting point they are at. No matter the challenges.

    Also, we see our sons (not just Travis, but his brother, Tyler) as loving, fun, interactive, and creative. Each will have different milestones. The great value in Travis’ will come to myself and my wife.

    It is said that real joy comes from seeing the victories in the small things in life. What would be a normal milestone for Tyler will now be something to celebrate with Travis. Each milestone has its own value. Neither is less or more important than the other. Yet, myself and my wife Glenna will surely see that there are incredible things that occur, that before we might have overlooked as the normal; the mundane and average. Maybe the lesson out of this will be to see the good in the little victories, don’t sweat the small stuff, and realize that the challenges prepare us for the larger issues life throws at us.

    Like I said, to those with ASD, the clear intent is not to offend, but rather make others aware, and with that, see all people – ASD or not – as having value.