By Chris Breece
MEDFORD, Ore. — Today one out of 88 children is born with autism. For boys that numbers 1 out of 54. Seven-year-old Cooper Christensen proves sports can be a wonderful thing.
“It’s like a family out there, a bunch of brothers, and they get excited when someone scores a touchdown. They do the high fives. And from the start of the season now to the end I’m seeing a totally different kid out of Cooper.” says Jared Banry, Cooper’s coach.
“For him to be able to go out there and communicate with the players and coaches it helps the social skills huge,” says Heidi Christensen, Cooper’s mom. “I’m hoping that by starting at this age as he gets older he’ll be able to blend in and continue.”
It’s something the Christensen family is trying to raise awareness on. All kids can go out there and have a ball; it really can help them.
“I know a lot of parents with kids with autism and they protect them and keep them out of the social limelight. But I highly recommend putting them in social situations with typical developing kids. I think it really helps them,” Heidi Christensen says.
Scoring a lot of touchdowns is something the 49ers flag football team did a lot of this spring.
“They would pass it to me and I was whooping down there and going straight and it was a touchdown,” Cooper says.
“And it reduces their energy level at night which is nice for us parents,” says Jay Christensen, Cooper’s dad.
“I’ve been practicing at home and I’ve been getting worked out so I could be an NFL player when I grow up,” Cooper says. “I start the college, then I go to the NFL and that’s what I want to do.”
It’s a dream that should never be let go.