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Skate park becomes a place of solace and acceptance for young boy with autism

Photo by RODRIGO BUENDIA/AFP via Getty Images

A local community rallied around an 11-year-old boy with autism after seeing how comfortable he was on a skateboard at a local skate park.

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The family of Christian Sharp is singing praises over the "acceptance and friendship" the 11-year-old has been able to enjoy at a Washington skate park.

Christian's mother, Stephanie, told KHQ-TV that she and her family decided to visit Hillyard Skate Park in Spokane to try something new with the special-needs child, but with trepidation in her heart.

"When you go to a place for the first time with a child with special needs, you undergo a lot of isolation sometimes because you don't know what to expect," Stephanie admitted.

She said, however, that Christian turned out to be a natural — and that children of all ages quickly became sympathetic to Christian's presence at the skate park, affording him the space, time, and help that he needed to hone his craft.

"From that moment on, they let the other kids know that he was special and they looked out for him on the course," Stephanie said. "I was just so impressed by the way the kids kind of embraced my kid, and the skating community embraced my son."

Stephanie said that she was so moved, she took to her personal Facebook page to point out the compassionate treatment her son received while frequenting the skate park.

Jake Koberstine, an administrator of the Hillyard Skate Park Facebook page, noticed Stephanie's post and took the opportunity to bless the family himself.

"I saw a video of Christian skateboarding, and saw that he had talent and he was comfortable on a skateboard," Koberstine told the station. "Then upon zooming in a little, I saw that his skateboard was a little lackluster and that he'd do a lot better with better equipment. It makes all the difference."

Koberstine then reached out to Stephanie and offered to buy the 11-year-old a brand-new skateboard and some skate shoes.

Just days later, Koberstine presented Christian with the gifts.

"He was super happy, he didn't even have shoes on when he came to grab his skateboard," Koberstine told the station. "He just hopped on it and ran and started riding barefoot. It was cool. My dad always thought it was just punk kids who went skateboarding, but I don't think he realized the true scope of the community. A great thing about skateboarding is if you make friends skateboarding, you don't even have to speak the same language. You can go to another country and hop on a skateboard and have something in common."

Koberstine said that he's taken a personal interest in the child and has been able to develop a comfortable friendship with the family.

"I didn't know anything about him," Koberstine said. "I didn't know he was on the spectrum or anything, not that it makes a difference, but I just saw a kid that was riding a skateboard and saw that it made him happy."

Stephanie added, "When you say something positive, it's a ripple effect, it goes out and touches many lives. That's what I feel like this skate park is doing for my son and for our community."

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