In Tyler’s first year at his new school, Francis Howell North High School (FHN), he was selected to be the varsity basketball manager, played in a junior varsity basketball game and was inducted into the Knights of the Round Table. As Tyler’s coach said, “he’s the big man on campus.”
Tyler, a participant of Community Living’s Social Opportunities and Recreation Teen Club and Weekend Recreation, likes playing basketball. His parents, Teron and Tonya Haynes, signed their son up for a four-day basketball camp last summer through FHN. “In transitioning Tyler to high school, we wanted to acclimate him and get him involved in activities,” Tonya Haynes said. “I went to the coach and told them my son loves basketball and he has autism, and I wanted to know if he could attend the camp.”
What Tonya didn’t know was Coach Darrell Davis coached in Fulton where he invited a freshman that loved sports and had autism as his basketball team’s manager. “It was such a great experience for the young man and my team,” Coach Davis said. “When Tonya was finished talking, I looked at my assistant coach and said we just found our manager for this year and for the next three years after this, too.”
Tyler enjoyed his managing duties where he helped with practices and pre-game warm up, brought water to the team and he started the chant – “Francis Howell,” then the team yells back “North Knights.” However, Tyler wanted to play. Coach Davis told Tyler he would get him in a game after the holiday break.
On February 19, Tyler played in his first JV game where he took three shots … the first two were misses, but then he shot a three-point basket at the buzzer! The points were counted and Tyler was swarmed. “It felt good,” Tyler said. The varsity team ran out of the stands to congratulate him, the JV team was jumping up and down around Tyler and Coach Davis couldn’t hold back his smile. “I was so happy Tyler was out on the floor and then the whip cream and cherry on top was when Tyler hit the three pointer,” Coach Davis said. “For about five seconds, I just watched the reaction of our basketball team and that was awesome. I thought I better get over there and give him a pat on the back and a hug because he just did something pretty awesome. It was all so satisfying.”
Just as it was satisfying for Coach Davis, Teron and Tonya were overjoyed. “The varsity team was sitting behind my husband and me when Tyler was put in the game, and they were so excited,” Tonya said. “Just to see how much the team loves him and how protective they are of him gives us so much joy that they care about him that much.”
Every year, each teacher is asked to select one student that stands out to them to be inducted into the Knights of the Round Table. Coach Davis selected Tyler for his sportsmanship and for being respectful and polite. This is one of the most prestigious honors for FHN students.
Attending the basketball camp did some great things for Tyler, but already attending Teen Club at FHN his eighth-grade year, helped acclimate him to the school. “Plus, the Weekend Recreation has helped in Tyler’s growth,” Tonya said. “It exposes him to activities and outings in the community and has helped him blend in and participate.”