News / USA

Autistic Children Shine on Youth Hockey Team

Cheetahs on Ice, Champions in Lifei
X
November 28, 2013 10:05 AM
At ice rinks across America, parents taking their children to hockey practice are a common sight. Many think it not only helps their children stay fit, but also teaches important life lessons, like the value of teamwork. VOA's Yuan Ye reports.
Cheetahs on Ice, Champions in Life
At ice rinks across America, parents taking their children to hockey practice are a common sight. Many think it not only helps their children stay fit, but also teaches important life lessons, like the value of teamwork. In Rockville, Maryland, near Washington, D.C., a special group of young players has an inspiring story to tell.
 
On a recent Saturday morning in a quiet neighborhood in Rockville, the Blaisdell family got up before dawn. David Blaisdell was preparing for his son Christopher's weekly hockey practice.
 
Christopher is 14 years old and plays on a team called the Montgomery Cheetahs. The Cheetahs look no different than young hockey players across the U.S., but their path to the game has been very different.
 
All the players on the team have varying degrees of developmental challenges, including autism. The team was founded in 2006 with only 10 players and two coaches, but now has more than 80 players and a larger coaching staff.  Head Coach David Lucia helped start the team.
 
“Montgomery Cheetahs Special Hockey Team is a therapeutic program for kids, to help them socially, behaviorally in and out of the classroom, on and off the ice. It's life skills that can be taken from the ice and transferred to daily life,” explained Lucia.
 
David Blaisdell, who speaks Mandarin from his overseas experience in China years ago, said much of Christopher’s success on the ice can be attributed to the coaches.
 
“All the coaches and volunteers are very patient with Christopher,” said Blaisdell.
 
The coaches are volunteers. Some, including Coach Lucia, are major donors to the team.
 
Weiwei Zhang, Christopher’s mother, appreciates the care the coaches take.
 
“Sometimes, you get the sense that the coaches treat your child better than you do,” said Zhang.
 
Weimin Zhou is the father of Jaojao, a player on the team. Zhou feels that playing on the Cheetahs offers the players an opportunity to grow they may not get on another team.
 
“Children with autism don’t mingle very well with other kids. First of all, they are not easily accepted by other kids. Secondly, they may receive special treatment. Neither is good for them to develop social skills. But on the Cheetahs, they feel they are all the same. They feel this is their own team,” said Zhou.
 
Chris Nagle is the mother of Donovan, another player, and also highlighted the opportunity to develop socially and physically.
 
“The social aspect of it has been a huge help for him because he really enjoys being with his teammates, whereas before he didn’t have the same endurance and would tired out more easily. He would be more likely to sit and read books,” said Nagle.
 
The social aspect also helps the parents. Parents often find themselves under immense pressure because their children have special needs. The weekly team practice gives them an opportunity to relax and mingle.
 
“With special needs children, there are not a lot of opportunities to be with parents with a similar situation,” explained Marie Jacob, the mother of Henry, a Cheetahs player.
 
Many parents serve the team as volunteers and mentors. Christopher’s father, David, is one of them.
 
“The more progress he makes, the more confident we parents grow, and the more grateful we are to the team. I want to do my share to be able to give back to the team,” said Blaisdell.
 
The American Special Needs Hockey Association says there are 50 teams like the Cheetahs nationwide with more than 1,500 participants.
 
Speed. Endurance. Teamwork. Competition. Hockey is a fascinating, but challenging game.
 
“We see how hard they try. They have so few opportunities out there. When they do get the opportunities and they shine, it just brings tears to everyone’s eyes,” said Lucia.

You May Like

How to Safeguard Your Mobile Privacy

As the digital world becomes more mobile, so too do concerns about eroding privacy and increased hacking More

'Desert Dancer' Chronicles Iranian Underground Dance Troupe

Film by Richard Raymond is based on true story of Afshin Ghaffarian and his friends More

Researcher: Obesity Poses Complex Problem

Professor at Symposium on Obesity, Diabetes and Metabolic Syndrome says problem involves more than calorie intake, warns of worldwide health impact More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Scientists Say Plankton More Important Than Previously Thoughti
X
George Putic
May 26, 2015 9:26 PM
Tiny ocean creatures called plankton are mostly thought of as food for whales and other large marine animals, but a four-year global study discovered, among other things, that plankton are a major source of oxygen on our planet. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Scientists Say Plankton More Important Than Previously Thought

Tiny ocean creatures called plankton are mostly thought of as food for whales and other large marine animals, but a four-year global study discovered, among other things, that plankton are a major source of oxygen on our planet. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Kenyans Lament Losing Sons to al-Shabab

There is agony, fear and lost hope in the Kenyan town of Isiolo, a key target of a new al-Shabab recruitment drive. VOA's Mohammed Yusuf visits Isiolo to speak with families and at least one man who says he was a recruiter.
Video

Video US-led Coalition Gives Some Weapons to Iraqi Troops

In a video released Tuesday from the Iraqi Ministry of Defense, Iraqi forces and U.S.-led coalition troops survey a cache of weapons supplied to help Iraq liberate Mosul from Islamic State group. According to a statement provided with the video, the ministry and the U.S.-led coaltion troops have started ''supplying the 16th army division with medium and light weapons in preparation to liberate Mosul and nearby areas from Da'esh (Arabic acronym for Islamic State group).''
Video

Video Amnesty International: 'Overwhelming Evidence' of War Crimes in Ukraine

Human rights group Amnesty International says there is overwhelming evidence of ongoing war crimes in Ukraine, despite a tentative cease-fire with pro-Russian rebels. Researchers interviewed more than 30 prisoners from both sides of the conflict and all but one said they were tortured. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Washington Parade Honors Those Killed Serving in US Military

Every year, on the last Monday in the month of May, millions of Americans honor the memories of those killed while serving in the armed forces. Memorial Day is a tradition that dates back to the 19th Century. While many people celebrate the federal holiday with a barbecue and a day off from work, for those who’ve served in the military, it’s a special day to remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice. Arash Arabasadi reports for VOA from Washington.
Video

Video Kenya’s Capital Sees Rise in Shisha Parlors

In Kenya, the smoking of shisha, a type of flavored tobacco, is the latest craze. Patrons are flocking to shisha parlors to smoke and socialize. But the practice can be addictive and harmful, though many dabblers may not realize the dangers, according to a new review. Lenny Ruvaga has more on the story for VOA from Nairobi, Kenya.
Video

Video Rolling Thunder Run Reveals Changed Attitudes Towards Vietnam War

For many US war veterans, the Memorial Day holiday is an opportunity to look back at a divisive conflict in the nation’s history and to remember those who did not make it home.
Video

Video Female American Soldiers: Healing Through Filmmaking

According to the United States Defense Department, there are more than 200-thousand women serving in the U.S. Armed Forces.  Like their male counterparts, females have experiences that can be very traumatic.  VOA's Bernard Shusman tells us about a program that is helping some American women in the military heal through filmmaking.
Video

Video Iowa Family's Sacrifice Shaped US Military Service for Generations

Few places in America have experienced war like Waterloo. This small town in the Midwest state of Iowa became famous during World War II not for what it accomplished, but what it lost. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the legacy of one family’s sacrifice is still a reminder today of the real cost of war for all families on the homefront.
Video

Video On Film: How Dance Defies Iran's Political Oppression

'Desert Dancer' by filmmaker Richard Raymond is based on the true story of a group of young Iranians, who form an underground dance troupe in the Islamic Republic of Iran. This is the latest in a genre of films that focus on dance as a form of freedom of expression against political oppression and social injustice. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Turkey's Ruling Party Trying to Lure Voters in Opposition Stronghold

Turkey’s AK (Justice and Development) Party is seeking a fourth successive general election victory, with the goal of securing two-thirds of the seats in Parliament to rewrite the constitution and change the country's parliamentary system into a presidential one. To achieve that, the party will need to win seats in opposition strongholds like the western city of Izmir. Dorian Jones reports.
Video

Video Millions Flock to Ethiopia Polls

Millions of Ethiopians cast their votes Sunday in the first national election since the 2012 death of longtime leader Meles Zenawi. Mr. Meles' party, the Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front, is almost certain of victory again. VOA's Anita Powell reports from Addis Ababa.

VOA Blogs