Kalin Bennett, first person with autism to sign with a Division 1 university

Michael Rothman

The inspiring story of the week comes out of Kent State, and the team's 2019 incoming basketball class.

Kalin Bennett, 18, from Little Rock, Arkansas, is the first person with autism ever to sign a letter of intent with a Division 1 university. But the young man wants to be known for much more than just that.

While Bennett knows his basketball skills made him the first student-athlete with autism to potentially compete at this level, he knows people will be cheering him on for other reasons as well.

"I want to make an impact not just on the court, but with kids that are struggling with the same things I am," he told Cleveland.com. “I want to use this platform to inspire other kids with autism and non-autism. I want to let them know, 'Hey, if I can do this, you can do it, too.' A lot of times they feel alone and by themselves, and I felt that same way growing up."

Bennett didn't get to where he is now without his share of struggles. He didn't walk until he was 4 years old, and didn’t talk until he was 7.

But he graduated from high school with solid grades this past spring, and is now attending Link Year Prep in Branson, Missouri, a move many high-level athletes make before launching into D1 play.

By signing Bennett, Kent State might be creating a precedent that other top schools may want to follow. The school works with the Autism Initiative for Research, Education, and Outreach (AIREO), and Partnering for Achievement and Learning Success (P.A.L.S.) -- programs aimed at helping young adults with autism adjust to college life.

Kent State currently has several dozen registered students living with autism, but there could be many more unregistered students, according to Gina Campana, the assistant director of the Office of Faculty Success and Inclusion. She added that the school is dedicated to raising awareness about autism and supporting anyone on the spectrum.

Continue reading full story here

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