SYRACUSE, N.Y (WSYR-TV) - Ryan Begay looks like your average 10-year-old, but when he was 3-years-old his family found out he was 1 of the 68 kids diagnosed with autism every year, according to the CDC.
"We were noticing that his motor skills were lacking and his speech was lacking also," said Jim Begay, Ryan's father. "So my wife and I acted pretty quickly."
Ryan was diagnosed with pervasive development disorder not otherwise specified or PDD-NOS.
"Ryan has high functioning autism. There's other forms of autism where you're non-verbal, but thankfully Ryan is able to communicate very well," said Mr. Begay.
Ryan goes through occupational therapy, speech therapy and physical therapy, but the Begay's also found sports helpful. Ryan is in the Geddes Little League and hit a grand slam this season off a 1-1 count. But he had a stronger connection with football.
Jim and his son Ryan watch the Syracuse Orange every week.
"He said 'Dad, I really like to kick' so for one Christmas last year we got him a kicking net. So in the backyard, he does practice every single day," said Mr. Begay.
Soon after, SU's senior kicker Cole Murphy came into the picture. Jim Begay reached out to Syracuse Football Player Development Coach Roy Wittke to watch practice last season and that's when the two met.
"They stopped and talked with us for about an hour and he was telling me yeah, I love to kick," said Murphy.
"Cole was nice enough, the first one actually, to come over and say high to Ryan and there was that instant click, I could tell," said Mr. Begay.
Now Ryan is an honorary member of the team coming and watching practice once in a while.
"It's been great to have him around," said Murphy. "I really enjoy engaging in the community and having Ryan and his Dad come out and talk with us all the time, it gives me a sense of they're invested in it. They're apart of the team they're apart of our family and they're always gonna be around."
With the help of his dad, Ryan stays in contact with Cole, the two talk before every game.
"He'll send me pictures of Ryan, he'll be wearing his Syracuse gear, he'll have his helmet out. He's always telling me 'Ryan's off doing this.' It's really cute and I love seeing it every single week," said Murphy. "His Dad and him gave me a baseball card of him and it had like his height and his weight and stats and it was super cute.
No need to guess where Murphy put the collectors item.
"Its right on my fridge, it's the only thing up there," said Murphy.
Ryan even gives Cole advice on kicking.
"Every once in a while he's like yeah don't miss." said Murphy with a big smile.
The Begay's are grateful for all the progress Ryan has made and hope it continues in school as well as sports. Jim also had message for parents.
"Monitor the child's early development either sensory needs and watch for eye contact and motor skills. If there is a concern seek help for them," said Mr. Begay.
Click the player to watch Ryan in action.
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