Bowling strikes ambition in determined autistic man
Herald-Journal - 10/6/2017
Oct. 06--Robert Major, 20, can roll a strike as well as just about anyone.
"It's my favorite sport," the young Cowpens man said. "You just do the best you can. Focus and make the best shot possible."
Major has a fairly impressive 167 average in a league at Star Lanes in Spartanburg. What's even more impressive is that he's been able to raise his average that high in just over a year since he first bowled a score of about 50, according to Star Lanes manager Eddie Goins.
"When he first started coming, he couldn't roll the ball hardly," Goins said. "Now he can bowl as good as anyone else."
For Major, who is autistic with ADHD and Asperger's syndrome, bowling has boosted his confidence and communication skills, enabling him to land a full-time job with Wal-Mart that he has held for nearly a year.
"I've been amazed," said Major's father Wayne, a Methodist minister in Cowpens. Dad is a regular in the 25-member seniors 50-plus bowling club at Star Lanes, which is run by the Spartanburg County Parks and Recreation Department.
Last year he asked club leader Lewis Grigg if Robert could join them to see if he liked bowling.
"We let him come because of his dad," Grigg said. "It's been a real blessing to him. He's improved exceedingly well. It's just amazing what he's done since he's been with us."
Now gutter balls are a thing of the past for Robert. In fact, his bowling has improved so much that he joined his dad in league play on Mondays at the bowling alley. His average of 167 is nearly 20 points better than dad's 148. Robert's highest score so far has been a 236.
Robert is the youngest of three children and grew up attending Colleton County schools near Charleston.
"For a long time it would make his day if he could beat dad," Wayne said. "Now it's the other way around."
He was diagnosed early on with autism, a developmental disability that can affect learning, thinking and problem-solving abilities, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
Wayne said his son also has ADHD -- attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, a neurobehavioral disorder that can cause inability to stay on task, fidgeting, talking too much, failure to listen to instructions, leaving projects unfinished and having trouble paying attention to details.
And he has been diagnosed with Asperger's syndrome, in the past a separate diagnosis but now considered to be under the umbrella of "autism spectrum disorder." It's a developmental disorder characterized by impairment in language and communication skills and repetitive patterns of thought and behavior. It can also cause obsessive interest in a single subject or topic to the exclusion of any other.
Robert made it through elementary school with the help of an intervention class, Wayne said. When he got to high school, he had difficulty with English class and also became a victim of bullying.
"I was concerned about kids bullying," Wayne said. "But he got a best buddy through placement, who was the biggest guy on the football team."
Since he started bowling, Robert has watched as much professional bowling on television as possible, studying their techniques, Wayne said.
He also has a steady job, working with the overnight maintenance crew at Wal-Mart, buffing and scrubbing floors.
Robert says he eventually wants to live on his own and is taking driving lessons from dad.
Smiling, he said he might even have a future as a professional bowler.
"He keeps talking about wanting to be independent," Wayne said. "If he puts his mind to it, he can do just about anything. He's determined."
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