Nicholas Batley, from Mooresville, NC, was our first Dream On 3 recipient. Nicholas, 14 at the time, lives with a medical condition known as Asperger’s Syndrome. Asperger’s is a higher functioning form of Autism, but still affects the daily life. We asked his mother, Wendy, how has Aspergers affected Nicholas on a daily basis? Below is what she had to say, which she allowed us to share with all of you.
“I’ve been thinking about this for a bit. It’s not quite as easy as one would think, only because after 14 years, we try to concentrate on what he CAN do and not what holds him back and why.
He has a lot of sensory issues, so playing sports on a typical team is nearly impossible, because there is usually some kind of contact between him and other players/other teams. Unexpected contact tends to initiate the fight or flight instinct in him. He has, in the past, gotten angry and chased a particular player during a kickball game at a family reunion. At recess once at school, he attempted to run off school grounds during a basketball game because he got hit with the ball. Other sensory issues include having trouble with hair or fingernail cuts, band aids/stickers, and doing arts and crafts. His diet is limited for this reason as well as the fact that he is hesitant to try new things. Certain loud noises still bother him and he will cover his ears.
He is delayed in development of his fine motor skills, so has been unable to learn how to tie his shoes, even after weeks of therapy working on just that one skill. Needless to say, we have to find sneakers that either have no laces or have Velcro closures. His writing has become better, but he tires easily if he has to write more than 1-2 paragraphs at a time.
He is learning to “go with the flow” about changes in routine, however, at school, he stills needs to be made aware of changes in the typical school schedule ahead of time so that he isn’t surprised with something “out of place.” This includes fire drills, partly because of the surprise and partly because of the noise. It is hard to plan something at the last minute at home because it is difficult for him and he may resist and throw a tantrum.
He has some other accommodations at school as well, specifically relating to time allowed for testing. He is usually allowed more time and a one-on-one room for End of Quarter/Grade testing. He is also allowed to take a time-out if he needs it during the day. In two of his classes, he has an aid, just in case extra help is needed for the work, or to keep him on task.
He has some social skills delays, which make it harder for him to fit in as he gets older. Luckily, he has been with the same kids for years, so most of them know him, but for others, he is still the “odd kid”. Plus, Nicholas still likes some the younger tv shows, stories, etc, which he is now learning to keep somewhat private as he is becoming more aware of his peers and what is acceptable to them and what is not. We are also learning about appropriate behavior now that we are an adolescent and our bodies are changing. We continue to work on eye-contact, voice level, and staying on topic in a conversation. He likes to talk to his “crowd” which would be his imaginary friends, so that can be a problem in certain situations. He is uncomfortable in large, enclosed crowds, such as the mall, but is fine at sporting events, like at the racetrack. He still does some stemming (flapping his hands/arms), and while there is nothing wrong with that, it is not always socially accepted, so we work on trying to control that to avoid unnecessary attention/embarrassment.
Please let me say that he has come a long way. Ten years ago, I could have given you a million things that he couldn’t/wouldn’t do or what things affected him negatively, but with a lot of work, a great community, amazing teachers and compassionate students, Nicholas has overcome a lot of hurdles.
The question you asked was how his condition affected his life. I guess I gave you examples of what issues he faces now and how it may interfere with his life, but not really how his condition affected his life. Without his autism, Nicholas would be a totally different person, I’m sure. But I’m also sure that I would not change a thing! How has autism affected Nicholas? It has affected his personality, his character, his intelligence, his compassion, his sense of humor and his love. He is the greatest, funniest, smartest, friendliest, most loving son I could ask for. Yes, he’s been affected, but he’s also affected our lives in ways that we could never have imagined. Has it been tough for him – sure; will he continue to face hurdles – of course; but autism is a part of who he is, it will always be a part of who he is. He will learn differently, he will process differently, and he will adapt differently, but he will continue to affect those around him, he will leave his mark, and he will touch your heart. In short, autism has affected him, but he has affected us a great deal more.
-Wendy Batley, Nicholas’s loving mother”
In order for us to get to know Nicholas, to learn more about him, and his dreams, we submitted a list of questions for him to answer. Some of the questions included were personal yet generalized like what he wants to be when he grows up, his favorite color, to his favorite food and tv show. While other questions were more in depth about what his dreams are and why. He didn’t hesitate for a second to answer any questions pertaining to his sports dream.
Nicholas is a huge fan of NASCAR, and of driver #24 Jeff Gordon. He also loves baseball and Derek Jeter. Having such a strong passion for sports has stirred his heart to be involved in a way he feels comfortable and enjoys, sports commentating! He said he would love to grow up and be a sports commentator like Darrell Waltrip at Charlotte Motor Speedway. On May 26th, 2013, during the Coca Cola 600, Nicholas’s dreams came true!
Check out the photos and video from Nicholas’ magical day; fasten your seat belts and take a drive down memory lane to be apart of Nicholas’ dream experience!