Kalin Bennett has autism, and doctors told his mother he would likely never be able to speak, walk, or do many of the other things kids his age were quickly learning to do. It took him until he was seven to start talking, but he did it! He was four when he started walking, but he now has a special talent for basketball. And he’s only kept growing from there!
“I’m still working on some stuff, but I’ve grown a lot,” says Kalin. He excels at math and music and hopes to take those talents with him to college next fall.
Now Kalin is the first person with autism in NCAA history to ever earn a Division 1 basketball scholarship. In fact, several schools recruited him, but the 6’10” center chose Kent State because of the autism-friendliness of their campus and programs.
Kalin’s mom will be moving with him from Little Rock, Arkansas, to Kent, Ohio, to support him as he pursues his dream of playing college basketball and going to school.
“I have a great support system, and I have a real strong Christian believing mother,” says Kalin. “So when I was younger, I didn’t talk until I was seven years old, but she just kept pushing and pushing, and she kept bringing me closer to other people. She just made me a better person, her and my dad.”
Basketball isn’t the only dream Kalin is fulfilling though. He also wants to inspire other young people with autism to pursue their dreams, despite what anyone might say about them.
“I want to be a professional basketball player; that’s every basketball player’s dream. But at the same time, I want to use this platform to inspire other kids, both with autism and without autism, and let them know, ‘Hey, if I can do this, you can do it too.'”
Kalin also hopes to get involved in charity work someday, including creating an autism-friendly place for people to hang out without feeling judged.
“I want to be able to make a place where kids or anybody can just come by, have fun, not feel fear of being around other people, just be able to express themselves, be able to be who they are without worrying about what people think about them or how they process stuff,” Kalin explains. “We’re all human, we all feel love, we all feel compassion, and this is just another step forward with it.”
Check out the interview Kalin did for Cleveland.com in the video below.
Elizabeth Nelson is a wordsmith, an alumna of Aquinas College in Grand Rapids, a four-leaf-clover finder, and a grammar connoisseur. She has lived in west Michigan since age four but loves to travel to new (and old) places. In her free time, she. . . wait, what’s free time?