Just recently we talked about Mike Brannigan, an autistic young man who is currently one of the best young athletes in the country, and now another young man from the autism community is making headlines for his athleticism. Meet Josh Bailey, a senior at Lakeland High School in Michigan, who is a star member of his football team – even being appointed captain for their first game this season (they use a rotating captain system).
It’s an amazing story, really. At 2, Josh was diagnosed with autism and didn’t learn to speak until 3 ½. Growing up he was seen as shy and was depressed because he felt he was missing something from his life. There was a lot of intervention and a lot of hard work (explained by Josh’s dad in this Detroit Free Press article).
Then, when Josh was in high school, he found his passion – football – and it opened a whole new world to him. Now standing at 6-feet-6-inches and weighing 270 pounds, Josh is an enthusiastic and integral part of the school’s team.
Granted, this is an extraordinary story, not what you’d typically expect. As DFP article discusses, you may see autistic teens be part of a team, but it may be more of a solitary type team (such as chess, etc.) because of social stress. But Josh was able to harness his natural focus – or fixation, as it’s noted – on football, which has really brought him out of his shell. As he said,
“I’m autistic and proud. I’m not afraid to be open about it. I’ve been through a lot through autism. I turned it from something that hindered me as a child and now I can show people, ‘Hey, a kid with autism is making it in football.’
“People can call me an inspiration, but I’m just living my dream. I got through a lot and I’m still here standing. I may fall but I will not give up. I will keep rising again.”
Amazing! You can read more about Josh and his journey here.
Lynsey, Community Manager