60 MINUTES SPORTS” AND SPORTS ILLUSTRATED LOOK AT AUTISM THROUGH THE SPORTS LENS – TUESDAY, NOV. 1 ON SHOWTIME® AND SI.COM
Sports and Autism, Once Thought Not To Mix, Are Coming Together In Surprising Ways
Watch A Preview Of This Segment: http://s.sho.com/2f8hvzc
(Press Release)For decades, autism and sports rarely mixed; there were just too many things that could go wrong for most children on the spectrum. Today, new thinking is bringing sports and people with autism together in surprising ways. Jon Wertheim, Sports Illustrated executive editor and a 60 MINUTES SPORTS correspondent, reports on this new development for a story on the next edition of 60 MINUTES SPORTS, Tuesday, Nov. 1 at 8 p.m. ET/PT on SHOWTIME, and in an article he writes to appear Nov. 1 on SI.com and in the Nov. 14 print edition of Sports Illustrated.
Wertheim reports from the Boston Higashi School, a learning institution for children with autism where sports and physical exercise are emphasized. Heather Katz, Higashi’s director of training, tells Wertheim what she believes the children, 80 percent of whom have little or no verbal language, get from the activity. “We want the kids to be physically active because if they’re physically active and they build up their body, that will also build up their mind,” she says. “It helps them sleep better, it helps them eat better…all areas that children with autism…typically, have difficulties with.”
Dr. Wendy Ross works with children who have autism in the Philadelphia area. She formed a fan program with the city’s professional sports teams to provide opportunities for kids and their families to go to Phillies, Eagles, Flyers and 76ers games. She tells Wertheim about a boy with autism named Alex who was brought to an Eagles football game. Ross says Alex, who rarely speaks, was “riveted” by the action and responded like other fans. “But the best part was the next day…mom followed him out to the car and he opened the door and got in. And she’s like, ‘Alex, where do you want to go?’ And he said, ‘Football.’”
It’s rare, but there are some professional athletes with autism. Wertheim speaks to John “Doomsday” Howard, a mixed martial arts fighter who received his diagnosis just a few months ago. He tells Wertheim what he felt the moment a doctor suggested he might be on the autism spectrum: “That might explain a lot in my life. You know what, Doc? I’m going to go find out,” he recalls. “Guess who’s diagnosed – guess who’s clinically autistic? John Doomsday Howard. Imagine that.”