A freshman on Kent State University’s basketball team made history on November 6 by becoming the first person with autism to make a basket in a Division 1 basketball game. The player, Kalin Bennett, also broke new ground last fall, when he became the first person with autism to sign a letter of intent with a Division 1 school.
According to a report this month by Yahoo.com, Bennett and his mother Sonja have worked hard to overcome the challenges connected with autism. In a June interview with Wbur.org, Sonja Bennett said that Kalin experienced significant developmental delays as a toddler, with doctors suggesting he would never walk or talk, and should even be institutionalized. Needless to say, Bennett was unfazed by these dire predictions.
“I said, ‘No,’ she recalled. “I had a child with an ability to do great things, but they just wanted to put a period on it, and just tell me to just throw my hands up. Well, I did throw my hands up. But I just said, ‘God, help me to help Kalin.’”
Thankfully, Kalin’s communication skills began improving thanks to weekly visits from a therapist. At age 7, he finally began to speak, and in third grade, expressed an interest in playing basketball. Although learning to play the game took time, Kalin eventually developed confidence on the court that carried over into other aspects of his life as well.
"I started to break some of the walls that I was struggling with,” he said. "You know, just being able to talk to people, hang out with the other kids, be tougher. And then going into middle school, I learned a lot about just letting myself be myself. Like, not being anybody else, just be Kalin. And that transferred to high school."
In an interview with Cleveland’s Fox8 after Wednesday night’s game, Kalin described his victory as a culmination of all the hard work he and his mother have invested over the years.
“This game was a lot of fun," Bennett said. "Being able to display all the hard work we put in from when we first got here to now. And for my mom to see it — it was really big for me to let her know that everything she did was not in vain."