Meet Elizabeth (Lizzie) Fear

Meet Elizabeth (Lizzie) Fear, a 13-year old athlete from our Lexington, KY program, who was diagnosed with Down syndrome and then autism. “The biggest gift for me is to see her grow, seeing her go from playing a child’s game to playing tennis and seeing a smile on her face when she reaches a new goal,” her father Shawn Fear, told us. 


In her third year with ACEing Autism, Lizzie has already come a long way according to her father. “A big challenge the first couple of years was focusing – all she wanted to do was play “ring around the rosie ” – and eye-hand coordination such as holding the racquet or making contact with the ball was a challenge. But she was able to hold the racquet and hit the ball this past session,” he excitedly shared. In addition, she can now focus for the whole hour! “I give credit to the volunteers who were so patient and focused on picking one skill for her to get  right.”


To understand how important these milestones are for Lizzie, it is key to know some of the physical challenges she has faced from her dual diagnosis. “With down syndrome you tend to have difficulty with muscle mass, motor skills, but as she participates in these activities – swimming, baseball, horse riding – they will complement each other and develop her motor skills,” Shawn said. This is why, when his “busy bee”, as he nicknamed her, hit her first volley this past session, he was thrilled. “The day she was able to do a volley over the net, we were so excited and took pictures and videos.” 


When Lizzie was diagnosed with autism, her parents weren’t as shocked as they had noticed some possible signs. “We were thankful to have her challenges figured out so we could get her the help she needed early on,” her father, who is now retired, explained. He continued, “she is very sports-oriented and it wasn’t always easy to find programs that fit her but we love seeing her grow and continue to build on the skills she acquires during these activities.” For instance, at first she only played catch during her tennis session, but she can now hold a racquet and make contact with the ball!


As our conversation came to an end, Shawn mentioned that the only change he wishes to see from ACEing Autism is that, “we wish it was a weekly event 365 days a year to be honest,” he laughed. 


 Thank you to the Fear’s family for sharing their experience and we can’t wait to see what milestone Lizzie conquers next!

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