Saturday, July 26, 2008

Autism and Athletics

By: Kathy Sweeney

For years, children with autism were often left on the sidelines, based on the belief that it would be too hard for them to handle a team sport.

But, some local boys are making a real splash in their chosen sport.

Miller Ogburn, Matthew Holman, and Danny Janisse can all be described using a single word...autism.

But, these three boys all carry another label, one they are very proud of. They're all gators, swimming on the Cape Girardeau team.

Danny Janisse, 14, loves to swim, but he's not too crazy about cameras, but he put his fears aside to talk with Heartland News.

"I've got to dive fast out there, because I pay attention good," Danny said.

While research shows autistic children benefit from staying active, the social interaction and rules of a team sport can often become too much for them to handle.

Kim Holman's son Matthew struggled in soccer, but now he's a strong swimmer with the winning ribbons to prove it.

Swim mom Kelley Pujol knows a lot about autism. She teaches music therapy at the Judevine Center for Autism in Sikeston. Kelley says this kind of repetitive activity really helps these boys from the inside out.

Danny and Matthew aren't the only winners in the pool. While they're learning each stroke, they're teaching their teammates compassion and empathy.

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