I’m a big believer in the benefits of any organized activity for Aspies, but particularly organized sports that are safe and properly coached. Any sport with a deep regimen can help a kid with Asperger’s Syndrome succeed.
That’s why I liked the newspaper story that got forwarded to me about Will Harvey. Will is a freshman at Terrell Academy, a college prep school in Dawson, Ga. He was diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome when he was in elementary school, but that hasn’t kept him from taking part in sports at Terrell.
According to a story by reporter Ken Gustafson that appeared in the April 9, 2015 edition of the Albany Herald, Will loves sports and loves being a part of Terrell Academy’s athletic environment. He has been a team manager for the football, basketball and baseball teams at the school since he was in sixth grade, when he wanted to “have something to do after school.”
According to the Albany Herald, “While Will’s fun-loving personality have made him a lot of friends, he has had to overcome a disability that, for many kids, makes it difficult to interact socially.”
Says Lisa Harvey, Will’s mother, “Some kids with Asperger’s Syndrome often have problems making friends and Will has problems in big crowds, but this has helped him overcome a lot of that.”
Will’s ability to overcome the challenges of social interaction has increased his confidence. After managing the basketball team in sixth grade, he came to Robert Bryant, the varsity boys basketball coach, with a request. He wanted to do more than manage. He wanted to play.
Coach Bryant granted his request, and in the semifinals of the region tournament, Will scored his first basket. “You would have thought that we had won the NBA Championship right there,” Bryant said. “We ended up winning the region championship, but it was a big deal. He’s just fun to have around.”
According to Bryant, Will put in a lot of work to get to where he is right now. “When Will started playing basketball in the seventh grade, it was rough,” he said. “He is 10 times the player that he was then. He’s caught up with everybody else skill-wise.”
Bryant believes that being around athletics and playing has helped Will in more important areas. “Everybody is friends with Will here at the school, but just being out in the crowd and the hand-eye stuff has helped his coordination,” he said.
In my book ESE specialist Pati Fizzano, one of my co-authors, noted the importance of visual Aspertools as a treatment for Aspergers. Coach Bryant evidently subscribes to this view, because he keeps a “1,000-Point quest” chart on the wall in his office to chart Will’s points in practices, scrimmages and games. Since Will has so far scored 132 points between the games and practices, “we have 868 to go before he graduates,” notes Bryant.
The importance of good coaching is underscored by Harvey’s father, John, who believes that the coaches at Terrell have made a world of difference for his son. “I think if they put in a bed, he would live at the school.”