Month: October 2012
BRICK, N.J. (CBSNewYork) — A high school student with autism becomes a hero on the football field. Sounds like a good movie doesn’t it? Well, it’s a true story.
The score was tied with just 21 seconds left on the clock Friday night. Out trotted Brick High School’s Anthony Starego, an 18-year-old kicker who’s used to facing adversity.
Starego was orphaned at the age of 3 and then grew up with a long list of developmental issues. So when he jogged out on the field to attempt a game-winning field goal against favored Toms River North, one couldn’t blame him if he didn’t feel overwhelmed by the moment.
What happened next was something usually reserved for Hollywood. He split the uprights and the place went crazy. But there was nothing ordinary about that kick. It was a lifetime in the making, CBS 2′s Otis Livingston reported Tuesday.
“As soon as the officials went like this, I was a blubbering idiot,” father Ray Starego said, demonstrating the hand movement for a successful field goal.
“I was just crying, but I wasn’t going to stop watching him because he was just jumping for joy. It really was unbelievable,” added Reylene Starego, Anthony’s mother.
If being the hero Friday night put Starego at the top of the mountain, his entire life has been an uphill battle getting there.
“When he came to us, he had been through 11 foster homes and he had had some difficulties. He had about six words to his vocabulary,” Reylene Starego said.
“He had kidney reflux; he had an asthmatic condition. Basically, it was a special needs adoption that we had gone through,” Ray Starego added.
Symptoms of autism include children performing repeated body movements. They often experience unusual distress when routines are changed, but those are the same traits that make Anthony a successful kicker.
“Fifty times a day, that’s all he does. Just three steps back, one over and he hits the ball. That’s what he knows and that’s what he did,” coach Kurt Weiboldt said.
Anthony Starego agreed. As far as he’s concerned, practice makes perfect.
“I do the same thing over and over again. It helps me a lot, and I’m having the best day of my life,” he said.
Children with autism also have trouble with social interactions, so making friends isn’t easy, but the football field is different. It’s a safehaven.
“[Anthony is] just the man. He’s always happy, always puts a smile on your face,” Brick High quarterback Brendan Darcy said.
Anthony said he doesn’t think of himself as being different than his teammates. He said he just has a job to do.
“I feel like I’m happy and calm and enjoying myself when I kick. [It’s] the time of my life,” he said.
The Green Dragons’ only two wins of the season have come since Anthony became the kicker. He’s perfect on kicks, including that game winner. Their next game is this Friday against Lacey High School.
- High school kicker with autism makes game-winning field goal (todaynews.today.com)
Sorry, the pictures won’t copy over. Please click the title above, or the link at the bottom to view the article and pics in its native form. Thanks. -Ed
There’s something about surfing.
The sport of beach boys and surfer girls has a way of bringing joy into the lives of kids with disabilities, and this was put on display Saturday morning at Vanderbilt Beach. About a thousand volunteers, surfers, kids and young adults with autism and related conditions, and spectators came out as part of Surfers for Autism’s inaugural Naples Beach Surf Festival.
“This all started when a pro surfer noticed how different his autistic son was in the water,” said Surfers for Autism founding member Jeff Adams. “The ocean is a great equalizer. And it’s not just while they’re here. The kids’ teachers and therapists say the kids are the calmest they’ve seen them” after trying surfing.
On Saturday, between two and four surfer volunteers shepherded each kid, helping them get accustomed to a paddleboard, steadying it, and putting a paddle into their hands. The young surfers did a combination of standing on the board for classic surfing, lying on the board to paddle it, and standing to paddle in the trendy paddle boarding that has become all the rage for local boarders.
Hannah Kandel of Naples, 20, who deals with autism every day, loved the chance to get out in the waves, and high-fived her helpers after taking her first turn on the board.
“This really is exciting for her, trying something new. She’s been looking forward to it all week,” said Mary Lee Kandel, Hannah’s mother. Hannah high-fived her helpers and family members as she came out of the water, and was ready to go back for more.
Nathan and Nancy Dearborn brought Andrew Warner to the beach for the event, and watched proudly as he rode the waves — or actually wavelets. This was the Naples beach, after all.
“Look at him, he’s doing great,” said Nathan. “Andrew’s not even able to speak, but they’ve got him standing up, forwards and sideways. He’s catching his own waves.” Nathan Dearborn has worked as a surfing instructor in Costa Rica, and said the waves at Vanderbilt Beach were perfect for the day’s purpose.
They would have been even more perfect without the unwanted guests who showed up. Thousands of dead fish from a red tide event drifted offshore, and periodically washed up on the beach. Event organizers picked up the small white fish off the sand several times, but more kept appearing.
Usually the floating fish were just here and there, but at times the currents pushed together a barrier of decomposing fish that had participants avoiding the area and making feeble jokes about sushi and fish fries. The beach was crowded with families, and the surfer volunteers who stood out with their bronzed bodies.
The Surf Festival is high-energy, with music pumping, sponsor tents, and kids and volunteers heading out into the water and then giving way to the next session. The event included a raffle, with prizes up to a cruiser bike and a high-end Ron Jon paddleboard signed by CJ Hobgood, donated by Quinn Boards surf shop. Organizers also singled out the Ritz-Carlton Naples, and Sun Bums suntan lotion as key sponsors.
Volunteer Kat Luchesi of Paddle Up Fitness worked with Alexandra Cruz, 18, who didn’t let Down’s syndrome stop her from having a great time. She positively glowed with delight on her colorful surfboard, and if she slipped into the water, was ready to climb right back on and try again. She came across the state from Hollywood with her family for the event.
Surfers for Autism is based in Boca Raton, and has gone from a local charity in 2007 to hosting Surf Festivals around the world. They began the year with a surf day in Australia, and will finish in Puerto Rico in mid-November.
Sebastian Sabater, age 6, posed a little extra challenge to his handlers. He loves the water so much he can’t wait to get back in. To him, the surfboard worked great as a diving board, and as soon as volunteers Mauricio Guzman and Harmony Schultz got him standing up, he would plop right back into the Gulf. Like all the children, though, he looked to be having a great time.
- Experts brace for wave of autistic adults (sfgate.com)
OR: MORON, THY NAME IS ‘ED’
We have a lot of expectations for our children. I have marveled at the gains Mike has made over the last 3-4 years that included starting in 2 new schools, with a different teacher in each year. His learning curve has really improved, really, without a regression, or a stumble. I forgot that with all learning, especially those who learn in a particular manner: visual, motor, etc., there is often room for a slide back for even minor things. It’s sort of like forgetting something miniscule in order to gain something greater; the trade-off for improvement, perhaps something I thought was fully ingrained, but really wasn’t.
Well that happened the other night. I became overly upset (read: loud) over something commonplace; an ADL-related task. In doing so I upset Mike, and his brothers too to some degree. After a while, I realized why I was so upset. It wasn’t because that task wasn’t done. I was upset because I feared that the gains he made for the last few years may not have been really gained. I feared that he would forget the simpler things. As irrational as it sounds, I visualized his brain filling to capacity, but with every new understanding he gains now as a teen displaces something he learned as a toddler; akin to speaking in complex sentences but forgetting his ABC’s. I was insecure about his ability to retain information; insecure about his potential in this world.
But I was wrong. Mike didn’t forget how to do any of these things. He didn’t displace any of his previous knowledge. In fact he showed me empathy and understanding. After I apologized for my ‘tantrum’ I explained to him these fears I had about him forgetting how to do things. I don’t know if he fully understood my fears and anxieties, but I got a “don’t worry Dad”. Thank goodness one of us remembered to be the grown-up.
I sat in his room with him for a few more minutes in silence as he started to go to sleep. I thanked God for the wonderful family that I have been blessed with, and asked to learn everyday from this young man who reminds me about compassion and understanding. About the need to reinforce ourselves while we make strides for the future. We all need a reminder or a hand sometimes. That night, Mike gave me both. Thank you Mike.
By the way, after my mini-revelation, I tweeted this: