For many kids and their parents, playing T-ball is a rite of passage.
But for children with special needs, that may be a rite they have to miss.
Not in Kokomo.
Jennie Ousley, a physical therapist at Homefront Learning Center, started a league for special needs children after the mother of one of her patients mentioned her son loved T-ball, but “he was too old to play that, but he wasn’t capable enough to participate in a typical baseball league.”
The Homefront Children’s Foundation board agreed to sponsor the program, and Ousley sent out an interest form, not sure she’d even get enough kids to form a team. She had 39 register, and tonight they will play their fourth and final game of the season at UCT Park.
Players range in age from 4 to 14, and many have been diagnosed on the autism spectrum, Ousley said. There are a few kids with Down syndrome and cerebral policy as well, she said.
Autistic children sometimes have sensory issues that would make it hard for them to play on a typical team, she said, and some parents worry if they tried to put their child on a team, they would be setting him or her up to fail. In this league, everyone understands the issues these children face, she said.
“This is kind of barrier-free. If a kid is running around or running away, or gets up to bat and doesn’t hit the ball, it’s OK. It’s been very rewarding from that end of it.”
Paula Kucholick’s son Cole, 12, plays in the league, and she said it has been a good experience.
“He can really do this. He can’t do it to a level where he could be competitive, where they keep score. In this league, there’s no score. Anyone can do it, so that’s perfect for him.”