Ohio Teen With Autism Achieves Dream of Playing Basketball

PHOTO: Dargan Bristow stands with coach Rossi Santo, grandmother Diana, grandfather Mike and teacher Brynn Ryan.PlayCourtesy Diana Bristow
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"I'm speechless."

That's what Dargan Bristow, 16, said to his grandmother when his high school basketball coach put him in to play during Tuesday night's game.

Five years ago, the high school freshman was diagnosed with both fetal alcohol syndrome and autism spectrum disorder.

For the past six years, Dargan's grandparents have been his primary caretakers, moving him from South Carolina to Ohio, where his grandmother Diana Bristow said he's had more opportunities to socialize with others.

"They really preferred [in South Carolina] that kids with special needs do Special Olympics and not participate with team sports, per se," Bristow said. "Since we’ve been in Ohio, he's had all these great coaches and teachers. Proud isn’t even a good word. I'm just awestruck with him. He's become this social butterfly and he loves everything he does."

One activity Dargan loves is serving as the manager for his basketball team, the Riverside Beavers in De Graff, Ohio.

"My favorite sports are basketball and swimming," he said. "I helped with the water and got out the basketballs for practice. I still help with the water."

After participating in drills during team practices, Dargan's coach planned on surprising the teen by letting him play in the final six minutes of the game.

"I planned for him to go in the last quarter and he ended up hitting two three-pointers and he had an assist," said Rossi Santo, Riverside High School special education teacher and freshman basketball coach. "It was pretty special. At the end of the game, the team gave him hugs on the floor and the other team gave him high-fives. It was pretty cool."

Although the Beavers lost the game, Dargan said, for him, it wasn't about winning.

"It's all about being a good sport and having fun, and being part of a team," he told ABC News. "I'm still the manager and I like being able to practice with the team."

Dargan is looking forward to the final basketball game Feb. 20, when Coach Santo said he will get more playing time.

"He’s great in class, he's an awesome kid," Santo said. "He’s just very happy to be around everyone and he’s happy to have friends. He‘s a good boy. He’s a good, humble boy. His grandparents did a very good job of raising him."