Local program to offer new sports option for those on autism spectrum
By Kris Leonhardt
CENTRAL WISCONSIN – Those on the autism spectrum may have a new option to participate in baseball, as a national organization expands into central Wisconsin.
“When I was much younger, I had speech issues, anxiety issues, and more that came with having autism… I wasn’t able to participate in competitive sports due to the developmental delays, in addition to social stigma (preconceived ideas) from those who think what one with autism can and cannot accomplish,” said Alternative Baseball Organization Commissioner/CEO Taylor Duncan.
“As many with autism graduate from high school in many areas, services plateau. In a lot of suburban and rural areas, there are no services for those to continue their path toward independence. Many travel to find the limited services which may or may not be available to their specific needs. Realizing a lack of general incentive and opportunities for those on the spectrum, I started this organization to give others on the spectrum/special needs the opportunity to be accepted for who they are and to be encouraged to be the best they can be.
“With the help of my mom, teachers, mentors, and coaches who believed in me, I’ve gotten to where I am today in my life: To live with the goal to inspire, raise awareness, and acceptance for autism and special needs globally through the sport of baseball.”
Wanting to give back, Duncan developed Alternative Baseball in 2016, serving those 15 years and older.
“I wanted to give back to others just like myself, especially to provide a solution to the disability service desert which exists across the country. After many graduate out of high school, the number of services drop dramatically. There’s nowhere near enough to serve those of the entire spectrum in the communities,” Duncan added.
Since its formation, the league has continued to grow and is now looking for new players and volunteers to help us start the new program serving those throughout Central Wisconsin and the surrounding area.
The program follows Major League rules – wooden bats, base stealing, and dropped third strike – and promotes a typical team experience for those on the autism spectrum and with special needs, to help develop social skills for later in life.
“Players can be of all experience levels. We take them from where they start out – whether they require to be pitched to slow overhand or hit off the tee – and help develop their physical and social skills,” Duncan said.
“We provide an authentic baseball experience in which all are accepted for who they are, encouraged to be the best versions of themselves possible, and to instill confidence needed to fulfill dreams in life on and off the baseball diamond. We want to show everyone we can accomplish the same things as everyone else when we’re encouraged and given the opportunities to be able to succeed in our own individual ways. Approximately half the weeks are practices, the other half are games. Everyone plays independently on the field with professional-style rules; there are no buddies or assistants at all. The only adaptation is the type of ball which is slightly larger and much softer than a regulation size baseball.”
The league plans to start a program in the central Wisconsin area in late spring-early summer, depending on the COVID environment, and is looking for both players and volunteers.
For more information or to join, email alternativebaseball.org, call 770-313-1762, or visit www.alternativebaseball.org.