Golf Saved My Life
A boy with autism and his father find happiness through golf.
Released on 5/18/2017
[Michael Voiceover] A lot of sound sort of freaks me out,
and it makes me just wanna cover my ears
and like sort of hide away,
so it helps me calm down
when there's basically no sounds anywhere.
I guess you could use the metaphor of just
me wanting to spread open,
and actually share moments with my dad.
(gentle wistful music)
When Michael was born was the happiest day of my life
at the time.
♫ This thing called love
♫ I must get round to it
♫ I ain't ready
♫ Crazy little thing called love
And I just had visions of Sunday afternoons,
and him watching the Rangers or just watching TV with me,
and us sitting on the couch.
[Woman Voiceover] Michael's diagnosis originally was
PDD-NOS which is Pervasive Development Disorder
Not Otherwise Specified.
It wasn't 'til Michael was two and a half, three years old
that he was rediagnosed out again as Asperger's.
(gentle wistful music)
[Sal] When I came home from work, he was on the floor.
Thinking he was playing, I just saw him put his,
just put his hands down and he literally was just
slamming his forehead into the hardwood floor.
I cried so much that night.
My wife would buy Autism books on the sneak,
because she knew I was upset about it,
and I think I was upset because I was in denial.
But, there's nothing I can do.
I couldn't take it away,
and that's when I knew that my life changed.
[Teacher Voiceover] Point to the number eight.
[Sal] Beautiful. Very good. (applause)
[Sal] Michael always had an affinity
with math and numbers.
[Teacher] Point to the number seven.
[Sal] He could pick out his numbers one to a hundred.
He could call out a number, put 'em on a card.
He was just brilliant with math.
[Teacher] Here we go, wait a minute.
Thank you. Very good.
And yet, he couldn't say Daddy,
so it was just incredible.
[Michael] Asperger's is, to me means
something that I have.
It's sort of a syndrome that affects my brain.
It makes me better in one subject,
worse in one subject, mostly in school,
but, also, it makes it harder for me to make friends.
It makes it easier for me to get stuck in what I'm doing.
It's very hard to overcome,
but eventually, it sort of just comes.
[Nicole] Michael loves to play video games,
so, on the Wii they had this game called Wii Sports,
and it was tennis, golf, and bowling.
Michael would torture me to play the golf.
[Sal] I think what he liked about it
was all the numbers.
The loft of the club and how that would change
the number of the club would change the distance.
[Nicole] He would just sit there
and try to figure it out.
So, I said to him Michael, do you want to,
do you think you want to play golf?
And, he said, yeah, maybe we'll try something.
I bought him a pair of plastic golf clubs.
On the day that I bought them, he was hitting the ball
so hard he broke the ball, he broke the clubs.
Just threw them in the garbage and I just, on a whim,
I drove him to the driving range.
I said, Would you like me to give you some lessons?
He said yes.
Then I connected with the manager there,
told him about Michael.
We found a coach that was perfect for him.
That's how it all started.
It all started with math.
[Nicole] It was Sal who really took the lead on,
I'm gonna introduce this to my son,
even though I myself don't know how to play golf.
I'm gonna learn because this is gonna be a bonding
for me and my son.
It was important for me
that Sal know that bond with Michael,
because I already had that bond with Michael
through all of the therapy and everything else.
I was the one that was always home with him,
but once Sal was able to bond with him on that level,
This was something that he chose,
that he felt like he could take the lead on,
and we could enter into his world.
It was just amazing.
It's still amazing.
[Michael] I like playing with my dad
because he helps me get through
moments that I'm feeling stuck
or I'm feeling down on myself.
I have a lot of fond memories of playing with him.
[Sal] He's in a mainstream school.
He's been in a mainstream class.
He's going to high school.
He's gonna be in geometry honors in ninth grade.
Goes to computer camp every summer.
So, we're just so proud of him.
If you ask him, Michael where do you wanna go to college?
[Michael] He's going to say MIT. MIT.
[Michael] I actually do wanna be a computer scientist.
My plan is I'm gonna take a computer science class
this year, next year, and I'm just gonna learn
more and more and more about it.
Then, I'll be able to get into MIT.
I am probably gonna join the high school golf team, though.
With practice, I think I can make it.
Strive big, you know?