By Todd Travis
Growing up with autism
By the time Liam Price was 2 years old, his parents Jon and Cindy could tell he had some type of intellectual disability. Shortly after, he was diagnosed with autism and was nonverbal for some of his younger years. School was difficult for a while and caused Liam some anxiety, so his mom homeschooled him for a few years. A friend of the Price family, a teacher at Center Grove High School, eventually reached out and offered to help Liam if they would put him back in school. The Prices agreed to give it another shot – they did not regret it. Liam would go on to excel in high school and even became the homecoming king and prom king.
A blessing in disguise
Just before returning to high school, Liam had a near-death experience that shifted his outlook on life. “When he was in seventh grade his appendix burst and almost took his life twice,” Liam’s dad recalled. “He developed C. diff while in the hospital, which is a serious intestinal issue that causes bleeding and other uncomfortable symptoms.” In a twist of fate, the medication Liam was given while he was in the hospital actually helped to regulate some of the intestinal issues that he had been dealing with for a long time. “All of the sudden, Liam began asking to do things he had never shown much interest in before, like football and swimming.” Jon said. “He also told me that he was feeling so much better now that his intestinal issues were calming down.”
Going beyond expectations
Once Liam got into sports, doors began to open for him that he never thought possible. In high school, he became a United States youth ambassador with the Special Olympics and spoke on Capitol Hill twice, advocating for people with special needs. He met Jason Hite, the swim and dive coach for the University of Indianapolis, who asked him to join the swim team. This year, he won a gold medal in the Special Olympics state games in the 50-yard backstroke. After placing second in the prelims, Liam went up to coach Hite and told him he was going to get first in the finals the next day, and he did. He ended up with the fastest time in the nation for 2022. He was interviewed by Tim Tebow on ESPN. The Tim Tebow Foundation runs an event called “Night to Shine.” Night to Shine puts on a prom night for kids with intellectual disabilities and Liam has attended for the last few years. He also completed an internship at the White River Township Fire Department where he learned about training their search and rescue dog, “Rosie.”
Looking to the future
Liam is currently attending the University of Indianapolis, studying communications with an emphasis on public relations. “If you were to tell me that he was going to be at the University of Indianapolis, navigating nine hours a day on a college campus and swimming on a swim team, I would have told you it would never happen,” Jon remarked. Liam’s goal is to get his degree in public relations so that he can work for the Special Olympics North America and travel the country advocating for those with intellectual disabilities. “I want to be able to show kids with disabilities that they can persevere and achieve what they want to in their lifetime if they force their mind to it and do everything to prepare,” Liam said. In his interview with Tim Tebow he said so much of his focus is on one word – inclusion. “I want everyone to be able to experience inclusion in the way I have with the University of Indianapolis,” he stated.