9-Year-Old Boy with Autism Heads to Gymnastics Nationals for the Third Time

For Micah Miner, a 9-year-old boy from Illinois, an autism diagnosis hasn’t held him back from accomplishing great things, particularly in the gymnastics world.

When he was five years old, he took up gymnastics at the Edwardsville YMCA in Illinois. Micah’s father, Maurice, says he struggled with “information overload” during his transition into the gymnastics program, but he soon learned gymnastics was a natural fit for him.

“It’s allowed him to blossom as a social individual,” Maurice told Belleville News-Democrat.

After overcoming his issues with focusing and taking orders from his coach, Micah tested into the advanced class at the YMCA and soon entered a competitive team.

According to Micah’s parents, his autism can both help and hinder his gymnastic abilities. Many children with autism engage in repetitive behaviors, and mastering gymnastics requires a high level of repetition. His parents say Micah will watch videos of himself or other gymnasts for hours, becoming fixated on the ways in which he can improve his own performance.

However, this intense level of concentration can also cause Micah to become upset if he notices any sort of stumbling or extra steps in his performances, which “can hinder him in performance later on,” Maurice says. “Autism is a black-and-white world for him. He’s his own worst critic. With autism, that’s heightened.”

Nonetheless, Micah has excelled in the sport over the last four years, racking up an impressive number of awards. In 2015, Micah won first place in trampoline and rod floor at the Southern Illinois state meet. The following year, he placed first in double mini, trampoline and rod floor in the advanced category at the same Southern Illinois state meet. In 2017, he took first place in the advanced boys 9-10 division in the double mini, trampoline, and rod floor competitions, which officially qualified him as an elite athlete.

Now, from June 20-24, Micah is set to compete at the 2017 U.S. Tumbling and Trampoline Association National Championship in Madison, Wisconsin. Impressively, this will be Micah’s third time competing in nationals.

The Madison County Police Department has honored Micah with Sherriff John Lakin paying him a visit to recognize Micah for his achievements. Lakin says “although Micah is only in fourth grade, his accomplishments speak volumes about his dedication and passion to the sport,” the BN-D reports.

Micah is a bright example of how children with special needs can persevere through their developmental challenges to achieve remarkable things.

“How do I feel doing gymnastics?” Micah says. “Happy.”

The gymnastics star plans to take a break from training after nationals in order to spend more time with his family.

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