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

Could Nemtsov Threaten Putin in Death as in Life?

Dynamic and debonair opposition leader had supported liberal economic reforms, criticized Russian president's aggression in Ukraine More

Oil Smuggling Highlights Challenges in Shutting Down IS Finances

Pentagon spokesman says Islamic State 'certainly continues to get revenue from the oil industry black market' but that airstrikes have made a dent More

India Focuses on Infrastructure, Investment to Propel Economy

Government expects economy to grow at 8 to 8.5 percent in next fiscal year More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
US Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Casei
X
Katherine Gypson
February 25, 2015 11:30 PM
The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video US Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Case

The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Hurt Nascent Illinois Hydraulic Fracturing Industry

Falling oil prices are helping consumers purchase cheaper petroleum at the pump. But that’s made hydraulic fracturing or “fracking” less economically viable for the companies in the United States invested in the process. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports on one Midwestern town that was hoping to change its fortunes by cashing in on the next big U.S. oil boom.
Video

Video Fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan Fuels Mass Displacement

Heavy fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan state is causing hundreds of thousands to flee into uncertain conditions. Local aid organizations estimate as many as 400,000 civilians have been internally displaced since the conflict began more than three years ago, while another 250,000 have fled across the border to refugee camps in South Sudan. VOA's Adam Bailes reports.
Video

Video Lao Dam Project Runs Into Opposition

A Lao dam project on a section of the Mekong River is drawing opposition from local fishermen, international environmental groups and neighboring countries. VOA's Say Mony visited the region to investigate the concerns. Colin Lovett narrates.
Video

Video A Filmmaker Discovers Her Biracial Identity in "Little White Lie

Lacey Schwartz grew up in an upper middle-class Jewish family, in a town in upstate New York where almost everyone she knew was white. She assumed that she was, as well. Her recent documentary, Little White Lie, tells the story of how she uncovered the secret of her true racial background. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more on the film.
Video

Video Deep Under Antarctic Ice Sheet, Life!

With the end of summer in the Southern hemisphere, the Antarctic research season is over. Scientists from Northern Illinois University are back in their laboratory after a 3-month expedition on the Ross Ice Shelf, the world’s largest floating ice sheet. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, they hope to find clues to explain the dynamics of the rapidly melting ice and its impact on sea level rise.
Video

Video US-Cuba Normalization Talks Resume Friday

Negotiations aimed at normalizing diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Cuba resume Friday. On the table: lifting a half-century trade embargo and easing banking and travel restrictions. There's opposition in Congress, but some analysts say there may be sufficient political and economic incentives in both nations for a potential breakthrough this year. VOA's Mil Arcega reports.
Video

Video Pakistan's Deadline For SIM Registration Has Cellphone Users Scrambling

Pakistani cell phone users have until midnight Thursday to register their SIM cards, or their service will be cut off. While some privacy experts worry about government intrusion, many Pakistanis are just worried about keeping their phone lines open. VOA Deewa reporter Arshad Muhmand has more from Peshawar.
Video

Video Myanmar Warns Factory Workers to End Strikes

Outside Myanmar's main city Yangon, thousands of workers walked off their jobs earlier this month demanding a doubling of their wages, pay raises after a year and input from labor unions on industrial regulations. Since Friday, the standoff has grown more tense as police moved in to disrupt the sit-ins, resulting in clashes that injured people from both sides. VOA correspondent Steve Herman visited industrial zones which have become a focus of Myanmar's fledgling workers rights movement.
Video

Video Oscar Winners Do More Than Thank the Academy

The Academy Awards presentation is Hollywood’s night to reward the best movies from the previous year. It’s typically a lot of glitter, a lot of thank you’s, a lot of speeches. But many of this year’s speeches carried messages beyond the thank you's. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti takes a look.

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More