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Autism doesn’t keep Eggemeier out of sports

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By Matt Birkholtz

Not many people with autism have the ability to participate in sports, but a Grant County High School sophomore served as a team manager.

“I love basketball,” Andrew Eggemeier said. “I played basketball in the second and third grade and my team won the county championship.”

Eggemeier has Asperger’s autism, which according to www.emedtv.com is a disorder that is often characterized by a child’s obsessive interest in a single subject. Symptoms of the disorder include clumsy and uncoordinated movements, socially and emotionally inappropriate behavior and the inability to interact successfully with peers.

One out of 110 children is diagnosed with autism and recent government studies say that the diagnosis of autism in children have increased 10 to 17 percent, according to AutismSpeaks.org.

During this past season, Eggemeier has had multiple duties for the basketball program, including being the primary manager for the freshman and junior varsity teams and also as a water boy and camera operator for the varsity program.

“I enjoy seeing my friends and teammates on the floor making great plays,” he said.

During the school year he gets help from Mona Lazarus, special education teacher at GCHS and he attributes her as helping him through school as well as athletic director Scott Shipp.

Lazarus said she has known Eggemeier since the second grade and worked with him at the middle school as well.

“He has grown into such a nice man and being able to take responsibility well,” she said. “Andrew is very conscientious about time and trying to manage all of his responsibilities and sometimes he will get overwhelmed and needs some extra time to do it right.”

Lazarus said Eggemeier has become a terrific student and he won an award as “Most School Spirit” for the sophomore class.

“He wants to be a part of everything GCHS,” she said. “He loves all of the students and wants to be friends with all of them.”

Lazarus also said sometimes his social skills are not always easy for him, but that he tries to work on them and that they are important to him.

“Coach Hicks told me that Eggemeier did a terrific job with the camera work,” she said. “He said that it looked like he knew what he was doing when he zoomed in and out and that it was professionally done.”

Eggemeier said that working under first-year Braves coach Jim Hicks was fun and that Hicks helped him a lot.

“Coach Hicks has helped me with things for life, like giving someone a drink or cleaning the players’ jerseys,” he said.

Eggemeier was able to travel with team on road games and he said that he enjoyed the scenery on the bus rides.

Shipp is happy with the work that Eggemeier has done for the program.

“He did everything that was asked of him and more,” Shipp said. “GCHS is proud of him and I am too.”

With the basketball season over Eggemeier’s primary focus is being a member of the JROTC.

“You get to learn leadership and help older people out in the community that are veterans,” he said. “Also, you get to do a lot of physical activity like jumping jacks and pushups.”

In the fall, GCHS will be adding a bowling team to its list of winter sports and Eggemeier would like to be a part of the team.

“I love to bowl,” he said. “I enjoy knocking the pins down.”

Shipp said the opportunity for Eggemeier to participate in a sport is not only good for Eggemeier, but the school as well.

“I think it will be great for him,” Shipp said. “Andrew loves bowling and for GCHS to offer the chance to play sport for someone like Andrew is a bright spot for the school and sports.”

Eggemeier said that bowling will be the first sport he has played since second and third grade and that he has some history with bowling.

“When I was two or three years old, I started bowling for the first time with a friend and we bowled together and loved it,” he said. “The next time I bowled with my dad and kept up with him and scored a 100.”