Autistic hockey lessons

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Meet Patrick. He's a  nine-year-old who loves playing with his dog almost as much as playing on his computer. He's also autistic.

So come Saturday morning, everything changes. All he's interested in is Coach Joe and getting on the ice. 

Joe Dellanno, SLS hockey coach says, "But, he loves hockey, loves hockey. He wears the Boston black and gold and he's all ready to go. When he comes here, his face lights up. He wants to interact with us and he wants to perform." 

Skating didn't come naturally for the autistic boy, but he's come a long way, thanks to Coach Joe, who figured out how get kids like Patrick to focus and pay attention.

Dellanno says, "They're into video games, so we thought wouldn't it be cool if we put a video game underneath their feet and then make it move so that it's animated so they have to chase it or they have to interact with it." 

And, that's what he does. Here at smart light sports, joe projects images on the ice the kids relate to, like flamingos, whales or stars. And, before you know it, they follow along, focus and learn.

Caileigh Sweeney, Patrick's sister says, "It's great that he's doing something that he loves and that he's happy." 

Tim Sweeny, Patrick's dad says, "I also think it's joe's coaching style. He does a great job with Patrick. They made an instant connection when we came here." 

Dellanno says, "every day that I leave here, I have the satisfaction of knowing that I've made a difference in these kid's lives. So, I know I'm connecting with them and it makes me feel absolutely wonderful." 

Maureen Sweeney, Patrick's mom says "It really warms my heart just to see how happy he is. We just want him to have fun just like all the other kids."

Dellanno applies his smart light technology to lots of sports, including hockey, field hockey, soccer, baseball, and lacrosse. And, they are in the process of getting this technology working  all over the country.

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