Kanesha Haile will tell you, as a parent, she sometimes prayed her child would cry. Her son, AJ who is now 4-years-old never made any sounds as an infant, or a toddler. As he got older, she tried desperately to find out why AJ wasn’t speaking.
“You could see, he was just frustrated. And I wanted so badly to communicate with him,” Kanesha said.
All the signs of autism were there. AJ was diagnosed when he was 35-months-old.
"I was very excited, which I guess is a weird reaction when you’re being told your son has autism,” Kanesha said. Her excitement came after months of doctor visits where she was told nothing was wrong with her son.
An official diagnosis meant AJ could now start therapy programs to help him communicate. Those programs have helped AJ immensely in the last year and a half. But Kanesha says one of his greatest loves is what truly “unlocked” her son.
Kanesha shows a video she took of AJ in their living room, working with a speech therapist and playing with a toy basketball goal. AJ throws the ball into the hoop as the therapist holds up a card.
“Triangle!” AJ screamed. Kanesha says she almost cried in that moment.
It was the first time AJ ever clearly pronounced a word.
“He’s had a love of basketball since he was born,” Kanesha said. She says AJ used to watch NBA games on TV as a baby and it calmed him. Ever since he was born, she says he just seemed to connect with the game.
Now, AJ has a tremendous vocabulary and can communicate very clearly with his mother.
“Most parents with a 4-year-old probably wish sometimes they would be quiet,” Kanesha said, “I will never tell him to be quiet, because for so long, I never heard him talk.”
AJ attends therapy sessions several times a week at TherapyWorks 4 Kids in Indian Land. He continues to develop his language and behavioral skills.
On March 26, Kanesha is taking AJ to see the Harlem Globetrotters perform at UNC Charlotte. She said the staff at the school has been very accommodating and they’re allowing AJ to come take a tour before the game so he can get used to the large, sometimes loud space.
Kanesha says he’ll be in heaven seeing the game up so close and in person. She’s just glad a simple thing like basketball helped her to be able to communicate with her son.