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Basketball player Bennett becomes first Division 1 athlete with autism

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Basketball player Bennett becomes first Division 1 athlete with autism

Bennett poses in front of a basketball hoop. He is set to begin playing for Kent State next fall.

Bennett poses in front of a basketball hoop. He is set to begin playing for Kent State next fall.

NBC News

Bennett poses in front of a basketball hoop. He is set to begin playing for Kent State next fall.

NBC News

NBC News

Bennett poses in front of a basketball hoop. He is set to begin playing for Kent State next fall.

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BRUNSWICK, OH- 1 in 59 children are diagnosed with autism every year, according to the National Autism Association. Although autism is not a particularly life threatening disease, Kalin Bennett’s mother Sonja was given the news that he would never be able to walk or speak when he was just a young child.

“I said, ‘can’t’ is not a word we’re going to use in this house. We will not use that word. That’s a bad word,” stated Sonja Bennett, mother of now Kent State basketball recruit Kalin Bennett to NBC News.

The 18-year-old athlete proved that “can’t” is not a word in becoming the first athlete with autism to play at the Division 1 level in college, according to the NCAA.

Hailing from Little Rock, Arkansas, the 6’10” teen has proven himself to be a talented basketball player. Bennett states that while he had other offers prior to Kent State University, he chose Kent for their progressive autism initiatives.

“The opportunities that came with autism I want … to use to inspire other people. But I’m a hooper. I can play basketball with anybody” said Bennett to MSN.

Sonja Bennett has always believed in her son. As he grew up, she read him books and played him music, which encouraged him to start speaking. Ms. Bennett also got her son involved in activities, and taught him to never give up. Percussion instruments and basketball were some of the activities that stuck for Kalin; NBC News states that the teen is gifted with both. His mom loves him just the same.

“I want him to grow up to be just the best man he can be, and I think he’s headed that way: respect, honor. He’s humble. He loves God … I couldn’t ask for a better kid.”

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Basketball player Bennett becomes first Division 1 athlete with autism