Sunday, July 17, 2011

Skating mom helps son with autism soar

“Fiend Club,” Lyra Stephens’ roller derby persona, is a dark, fierce competitor, circling the rink fighting for the Deadutantes in bouts all over the South. She’s the captain of the team, which is part of the only derby league in Montgomery, Ala., the River Region Rollergirls.

Derby is her passion and her stress-buster. It’s fun. It’s serious, physical business. She’s willing to get hurt.

But when she’s simply Lyra, she’s also the mom of 5-year-old Sewell, who at age 2 was diagnosed with autism. Autism is a developmental disorder that appears in the first three years of life, and affects the brain’s normal development of social and communication skills. It’s now estimated that one in 110 children will develop autism.

After she enrolled Sewell in a therapeutic skateboarding clinic hosted by the A.Skate Foundation, a Birmingham, Ala.-based organization for kids with autism, Stephens realized her derby team — as committed to giving back to the public as it is to winning bouts — could help.

She organized a benefit scrimmage for A.Skate that will bring three other derby teams from the region to Montgomery to help the cause.

A.Skate, co-founded by Crys Worley, also the mom of an autistic son, gives kids with autism the chance to play a solo sport. For autistic kids, the social dynamics of team sports are difficult at best, impossible for most.

According to its website, the program, which travels throughout the U.S., holds clinics for children with autism at no cost to the families, gives grants to children with autism for skateboard gear, as well as promote awareness and educate families about the skateboard industry.


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