Another Barrier Broken in Division I Athletics

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Another Barrier Broken in Division I Athletics

Sydney Matai

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Kalin Bennett, at age eighteen, is the first college athlete with autism to sign with a Division I school. Bennett is from Little Rock, Arkansas. He is a determined young man who has been defying the odds since he was born. Bennett brings hope and and serves as a role model to the autistic community showing people everywhere that nothing is impossible.

As a small child Kalin was diagnosed with autism. Doctors did not think he would ever speak or walk. At age four Kalin challenged that diagnosis by walking and again at age seven by learning how to speak. He was very shy as a child, often not participating socially. He spent a lot of time alone.

His amazing leap of faith to exceed the expectations set for him would not have been possible without his mother Sonja Bennett. She explains how despite the low standards doctors said Kalin would barely meet, she never doubted him. Sonja would often read books to her son and play music for him, two things that largely contributed to his social success. In the present day Kalin is very sociable, focusing on the person talking and is able to have comprehensive conversations. He is extremely loving too, often giving out hugs.

Along with his mother’s efforts, she introduced him to basketball. The sport truly opened many doors for Kalin and changed his life for the better. His confidence level grew as he was able to shine on the court. Kalin also learned teamwork and was given a whole family of brothers whom he was able to work on his social skills with even more.

During his final year in high school, many colleges began to recruit Bennet. At 6 feet 10 inches, Bennett’s rebounding skills and ball smarts would make him a treasurable attribute to any time. He chose Kent State as the school where he will be playing because he felt like he would fit in seamlessly with the players on the team. Additionally, Kent State is nationally recognized for their autism initiatives. Kalin hopes to be a positive contributor to the team and is looking forward to the new journey ahead of him. He will be living at school while his mother retreats nearby as a reminder that she is always there for him if he needs her. Kalin hopes his achievements will inspire other kids with autism to follow their dreams. He has shown that determination and heart can take you anywhere in life, a lesson that all people can learn from.

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