CHICAGO (CBS)–Hockey is more than just a game for one collegiate player with autism.
Stepping out on the ice is just the right medicine to help 21-year-old Walker Aurand live life to the fullest, despite having autism.
Aurand is using his skills on the ice to help others suffering from the disability he knows too well.
CBS 2’s Dana Kozlov reports from Vernon Hills, where Aurand is playing in the Pucks For Autism Tournament this weekend. The event raises awareness and funds for causes that support autism research and care.
Aurand says he doesn’t remember life without a hockey stick. He’s been gliding on the ice armed with a hockey stick, chasing a puck, since he was a kid.
He was a young boy when he was first diagnosed as autistic.
“It kinda just feels like a release from the stress or the pressure or the anxiety I’ve felt,” he said. “Not just now, but back when I was two-years-old.”
Now a grown man pursuing his college degree, Aurand still finds plenty of time for his lifelong love of hockey.
He plays Division 1 at Davenport University in Michigan.
“It’s definitely inspiring–it can help other kids and give other families hope,” said Pucks for Autism founder Shawn Pfeiffer.
He reached out to Aurand after seeing his story about hockey and autism featured in an article,
“Using hockey as a way to help him with his autism felt like a perfect fit,” Pfeiffer said.
Pfeiffer founded the tournament after his own son’s diagnosis.
Walker’s dad, Steve Aurand, said hockey has reaped many benefits for his son and their family.
“It helped him perform better in school, it helped him focus better, and it helped him socially,” he said.
Aurand’s aim this weekend is simple–to help others with autism achieve their goals.
“Whatever your disability is, find what makes you happy and if it helps you then that’s great–and do that,” Aurand said.
The tournament starts Friday night and runs through Sunday at the Glacier Ice Arena.
For more information, visit http://pucksforautism.com/