Penny Hardaway praises son Jayden as 'walking miracle' for overcoming autism

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. — University of Memphis head basketball coach Penny Hardaway is shining a light on autism.

Hardaway said his son Jayden, who plays for the Tigers, overcame autism and is a “walking miracle.”

U of M redshirt freshman Jayden Hardaway took to the court Saturday in his first time as a starter as the Tigers battled UConn.

Hardaway’s seven-minute appearance was impressive, not because of his play, but for his success in overcoming autism.

Penny said Jayden, who was born with autism, is a “walking miracle.”

Jayden’s success story is encouraging for professionals at Transformations Autism Treatment Center in Bartlett.

“It gives parents hope,” said Tracy Palm, executive director of Transformations Autism Treatment Center. “It gives parents that feeling that, ‘It can happen for my child as well,’ and I think that is so important for individuals on the spectrum and their families.”

Nine-year-old Darren was being treated at the Bartlett center for a neurological disorder that affects one’s social, emotional and communication abilities.

Studies show only 4-13% of people with autism actually overcome their autism and lose the diagnoses.

“Yes, that is low; however, any child, any adult with autism can learn skills to make their life more successful,” Palm said. “Success looks different for every person, so everybody is individual.”

Palm said the CDC is reporting that 1 in 59 children are currently diagnosed with autism, but that’s a number that continues to rise.

Patients are typically diagnosed between the ages of two and four.

“That’s kind of the average range,” Palm said. “If a child is a lot higher functioning, sometimes that will happen later in life because sometimes they’re misdiagnosed as having ADHD or something like that.”

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