How baseball brought my son with autism and his brother togetherBy The Strode Family | October 1, 2019
Our youngest son Dylan James Strode was born on December 1, 2008. At around 19 months old, my wife Jody and I suspected that he had some sensory issues, so we sought out an evaluation through a state program called Early Steps. When Dylan was approximately 2 1/2 years old, he was officially diagnosed with autism.
Our oldest son Blake was 4 years old when Dylan was born. He immediately took on the role of best friend/ big brother, always playing with Dylan, entertaining him, communicating for him when he couldn’t (Dylan didn’t really speak until he was 3). Dylan has always been a little different, and Blake has never missed out on an opportunity to teach his friends and others about his little brother and what autism is and what makes him unique and special. But you see, Dylan being different never mattered to Blake, or his friends. They have always been so accepting of Dylan. And if anyone were to say something negative or derogatory, Blake is the first person to step in and put them in their place. It’s really a beautiful thing to witness.
Baseball is the center of our family
Blake began playing T-ball at 5 years old, and has played with our local Viera Suntree Little League since. Blake's All Star Little League team made it to the Junior League World Series this summer in Taylor, Michigan. Dylan even took his very first airplane ride to Broadway, Virginia this summer to watch Blake and his baseball team play in the Junior League Southeast Regional Championship, from there we flew to Michigan for the World Series. Dylan enjoys going to Blake’s baseball games and watching his big brother play.
Whenever Blake goes up to bat, Dylan cheers him on and says “Three Cheers for Blakie!” He loves watching baseball on TV, our favorite MLB team is the Washington Nationals.
A few years ago, Dylan was selected by our local High School to throw out the first pitch at a Varsity Baseball game in April for Autism Awareness night. Blake and Dylan were invited to go out to the pitchers mound and with Blake’s coaching and help, Dylan threw out the first pitch. He was so excited when the crowd cheered for him!
My wife Jody and I decided to buy Blake the Wilson Autism Speaks Glove after seeing it on the Wilson Facebook page. Jody showed it to me one night and said, "we really should think about getting this for Blake. He’s such a great big brother and he is always wanting to spread awareness, how cool would it be for him to have this?“ I couldn’t think of a better way for Blake to show his love for his little Brother, than this special baseball glove.
We ordered the glove and when it was delivered, we let Dylan give it to Blake. He told Blake it was a special present for a special big brother. Our words of course, but still, it was a special moment. I will never forget Blake’s reaction to receiving the glove, he was so surprised! He slept with the glove in his bed every night, and when we went on our trip to Virginia, he didn’t want to pack it in his suitcase, he wanted to carry it on the plane so it didn’t get damaged or lost. It is his prized possession.
The Autism Speaks Glove has definitely been a real conversation starter. When Blake first brought the glove to baseball practice, all of his teammates and coaches crowded around him and wanted to check it out and wanted to know the story behind it. Of course Blake was proud to tell them that it was for his brother. He even asked if we could take it to the Rawlings store in Orlando and have the leather engraved with Dylans name.
My wife posted a photo of our two boys on Facebook with the glove and a little story, and so many people commented on what a cool glove it is and what a great cause it represents. Many even commented on the fact that they didn’t know that an autism glove even existed. My wife even had friends sharing her Facebook post in other autism groups.
Unfortunately Dylan isn't able to advocate for himself yet. He speaks, but his speaking is somewhat limited. He does a lot of echoing and reciting things that he has heard from TV or movies. He has a great vocabulary, but he is not one to really conversate.
Until he can advocate for himself, Jody, Blake and I are proud to be advocates for Dylan.