Cover Girl

Cover GirlMeet Kiley Lyall, the first runner with autism to be on the cover of Women’s Running magazine. Kiley was selected as the magazine’s cover girl by readers as part of a contest.

Running since the age 8, Kiley, now 24, has a number of races under her belt and has done it all while dealing with autism, mild cerebral palsy and life-threatening seizures. Kiley’s mom, Kathleen, explains in this article, the sport has improved her daughter’s condition.  She said, “With everything she struggles with, she realized that running made her body feel so much better. She started talking more, and she started wanting to run more because it made her feel better.”

Kiley is a great inspiration and being on the cover of this magazine is much more than just a photo. As Kathleen said, “We’re hoping that it will open doors for these other athletes that have limited abilities, and just promote what they can do. Everyone thinks that running is this big elite thing – and it does take motivation and determination – but we want to change perception of these individuals and let people know that they’re very, very capable of achieving their goals.”

Lynsey, Community Manager


Finding His Passion In Football

Detroit Free Press

Detroit Free Press

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


Star Athlete

About 16 years ago, the parents of this young man, named Mike Brannigan, were given their son’s diagnosis of autism and told that he would likely need a special school and a group home. Based off this tough prognosis, his mom was concerned he wouldn’t be able to function in the world.

And now? Well, Mike, at 17 years old and a senior at Northport High School, is one of the best young athletes in the country with a couple hundred (…yes, COUPLE HUNDRED!) colleges knocking at his door!

As NBC News reported, Mike is one of the top 10 high school runners in the U.S. – able to run a mile in 4 minutes, 7 seconds. His mom credits running in helping Mike blossom and also his ability to focus on academics.

Mike’s dream is to continue running, becoming a professional athlete and one day being on the Olympic team. And with his talent, we are sure he’ll do just that – go Mike!

Check out this NBC segment for more on Mike.

Lynsey, Community