Meet Kaleb Theard, a 5 year old tennis player from our brand new Pasadena program. “This was Kaleb’s first time with tennis at all and the first ever sport we tried,” his mother Cordijah Ward, said.
To understand Kaleb’s amazing story, we have to go back to before he was even born. “At 6 and a half months pregnant, doctors told me he was going to have down syndrome and they pressured me to terminate,” the mother of 3 remembers. “But when he was born, he had no deformity. However, his development eventually fell behind, so we (his parents) had to advocate to get him tested as we knew something was off.”
At 2 years old, Kaleb was diagnosed with autism. “We really wanted to get him tested because his tantrums were so intense that he would scratch his face, break a TV or hit his head,” she recalled. With this diagnosis, Cordijah and her husband had to get creative. “We had to teach our 2 other kids that Kaleb was still their brother but we had to make accommodations for him.”
The 2 sisters are really patient with him and extremely protective, the proud mom then happily shared. “Sometimes they get him to do something I can’t,” she laughed.
Nonverbal originally, Cordijah wondered what any mother in her situation would: will I ever hear my child’s voice? “Sometimes I thought it wouldn’t happen but when I heard the word mommy for the first time, it was amazing,” she said with a chuckle in her voice. He’s come a long way already. “He has been verbal for a year now, he understands commands and can tell us what he wants,” she explained proudly.
For the past few months, Kaleb has been watching more sports and wants to go outside, so “we thought now would be a good time to try tennis.” And she was right. Even though doing something new is sometimes hard for him, Kaleb reacted really well to his first sports clinic ever. “I only talked to him a couple of times to get him to respect people but that’s it,” she proudly bursted. “He was really excited to be there and he loved it.”
Another positive thing that happened was Kaleb’s attention span. “He can normally stay focused for 10 to 15mn at a time so I’m really proud of him that they were able to hold his attention for the full hour.”
Kaleb, who loves to cook, dance, and dinosaurs – he likes to pretend he is one – has overcome many obstacles to get to this point and we couldn’t be more excited to have him and his family as part of our community!
“It’s been a desert to find fun things for him, but it was the right program for him.”