Growing up, I was pretty easy to find. I was either at my house (which was rare), my two best friend’s houses, or the best options - either in the gym or on a ball field. You see, I was blessed to have a dad that was also a coach. That’s right, I am a coach’s son! Let me tell you, there is a lot of pressure growing up as a coach’s kid, but you also get to experience so much being around the sports that you love!! I grew up helping my dad as a student manager during basketball and football seasons and in the summer as he coached baseball. I LOVED IT and wouldn’t have changed it for anything!
Back to the part about there being some pressure....most of that was put on by myself. I knew for a fact that I needed to work extremely hard to be successful at all the sports I participated in, and I needed to work even harder to prove that I DESERVED to be playing in the games as I got older. I knew there would be people saying I was only playing because “my dad was the coach”. I wanted to prove them wrong, BIGTIME!
I felt that I worked as hard as I could growing up, especially on the two sports I loved the most, basketball and baseball. The trouble I ran into was that I became overly competitive. I remember my dad getting on me after a game in high school. He told me, “you are the most competitive person I have ever been around, but you have to learn to let the things you can’t control or things in the past that are finished GO!” At the time, I heard what he was saying, but I wanted to WIN so bad and be the best player I could that I did not understand completely what he was saying until years later.
Move forward to January 2005 and the birth of our son, Trae. Man, were we excited and thrilled to finally become parents! We had tried and waited so long to have a family, and we were finally going to experience the joy of parenthood through our adoption. We were blessed to be a part of his birth and be in the delivery room. From the minute he was born with a club foot, oxygen levels that were low, and being severely developmentally delayed which kept him in the hospital for two weeks, I knew my life had changed forever. We didn’t care about any of those issues; we just wanted to make sure he was getting healthier and would be able to go home with us soon.
As time passed, we knew there were still some developmental delays with Trae, as he did not walk or talk until he was two and a half years old. He had sensory and social issues. We were told early on with him that autism may be playing a part with some of these symptoms. At the age of three, Trae was diagnosed with autism. During this entire process, I kept remembering what my dad had told me years earlier about “not worrying about the past and things I couldn’t control”. I took that to HEART in a major way! I wasn’t going to sit back and be upset that my son was autistic. We knew deep in our hearts that Trae was a very special child and unique in his own way like we all are. We knew that we wanted to focus on the things we could control and help improve his progress and development. We started him in all the therapies (physical, OT, speech, horseback, swimming, etc.) we could afford. Once he was involved in those, we became aware of what role the diet might be playing with his autism. We became proactive in removing a few things from his diet and began to see (along with all the therapies) a HUGE improvement in his development especially with his speech and social interaction.
We were once told that Trae “was the way he was and that he would never change”. We could have gone down that road, but that was NEVER an option for Kerri and I. We knew there were other options out there that could help our son and that we would see him blossom into a special young man. There are still areas that we are working on with him, but he has come so far. We are so proud of him and the progress he has made. He makes us smile every day, and we are so thankful to be his parents! He sees the world from a different angle, and it is truly refreshing!
The Kids & Dreams Foundation wants to give that same hope and encouragement to other children and families dealing with autism. I want families to know they are not alone, and there are options out there to help their child progress and develop. Looking back, I was being groomed by my father at an early age to prepare me to be a “dad of an autistic child”. Sure, I was being taught all the things I needed to know and do to be successful in sports and try to win games, but my dad was also preparing me on how to be successful off the court/field! I am so thankful for my parents and all the support they have given me over the years.
Don’t get me wrong, I am still very competitive and love sports, but my main passion now is my family and the Kids & Dreams Foundation. We have big dreams for our kids as they grow up and for this new adventure we are on. We believe our story can help others as they start down this road. #DREAM BIG!