by LINDA FRABL | photos by Zeena Gregg Photography 

Even though Owen Godfrey is an autistic 18-year-old with limited speaking abilities, this Westview High School graduating senior can nonetheless communicate his great love of shooting hoops. Thankfully, one of Owen’s classroom aides happened to be Coach Kyle Smith from the school’s varsity basketball team. He was the one who not only noticed Owen’s amazing free throwing skills, but also encouraged him to be an assistant manager for the team. Owen’s mother, Nicola, exclaimed, “It was a life-changing experience – to be included, respected, loved and treated equally by his teammates and peers is the dream of all parents of kids on the autism spectrum.”

As the assistant manager, Owen attended every practice and helped rack the balls, stack chairs and cheer on the team. He even earned himself a varsity letter for his managing assistance. Plus, at every home game, Owen took part in the half-time free throw contest and, as Nicola recounted, “He won every time! He rarely misses, even 3-pointers. It’s his autistic talent; he is a spatial and visual thinker.” He is also extremely tall – at 6’5”, “he is a gentle giant,” as Nicola happily described him.

student 2This gentle giant, who shoots hoops for at least two hours every day, is also on a Poway Challenged League basketball team, which plays on Tuesday evenings. At one of these games, Owen made more hoop shots than a USD Torero player in front of the entire crowd. In addition to basketball, Owen also won a first place ribbon for playing goalie at a special needs Olympic soccer event last fall.

When not participating in basketball or soccer, Owen loves dancing. He recently performed a routine at the Westview Annual Friendship Dance with his Best Buddies (the Best Buddies is a program that matches special needs students with their peers for friendship purposes). He also enjoys reading, completing jigsaw puzzles and word searches, watching movies, boogie boarding and hiking. You can even find Owen taking on odd jobs at his school like filing, sorting library books and helping in the cafeteria.

“It was a life-changing experience – to be included, respected, loved and treated equally by his teammates and peers is the dream of all parents of kids on the autism spectrum.”

– Owen Godfrey’s mother, Nicola

After graduating, Owen plans to attend the transition program at Poway’s Abraxas Continuation High School. He will learn independent life skills and eventually start working at paid jobs in the community. Nicola is especially thankful for Owen’s solid high school foundation and proclaimed, “The amazing teachers, staff and students at Westview have such big hearts. They strive to support and promote equality and inclusion for everyone.”

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Name: Owen Sean Godfrey

Age: 18

School: Westview High School

Grade: Graduating Senior

Parents: Mom, Nicola Bridges, Stepdad, Tony Oxley and Dad, John Godfrey

Siblings: Jack Godfrey (19)

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