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Scrabble Brings World Into Focus For Boy With ASD

SAN ANTONIO, Texas — The phrases give the 12-year-old boy confidence. The tiled letters sharpen his focus like a sliver-thin laser. He excels at enjoying the sport’s English and Spanish variations.

Scrabble is Ricky Rodriguez’s world.

“I don’t actually have a favourite phrase,” Ricky stated at his North Aspect residence. “Simply scoring factors — that’s my favourite factor.”

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At 18 months, he was identified with autism. As a toddler, Ricky would get anxious when he didn’t win a sport. The neighborhood of Scrabble gamers calmed him. Interacting with rivals improved his social abilities and enabled him to plot methods he’ll use Might 14-15 on the North American Faculty Championship in Washington, D.C.

Considered one of his mother and father, often his mom, accompanies him on travels to competitions. Ricky has displayed his abilities at tournaments throughout the nation and overseas.

Ricky received 7 of 19 video games on the World English Language Scrabble Gamers Affiliation youth cup in Malaysia. The San Antonio native was one in all 190 kids from greater than a dozen nations who competed within the match greater than 9,700 miles from the Alamo metropolis. He received his final sport with 77 factors for an applicable phrase — “retired.”

In 2019, Ricky grew to become a nationwide champion for youth Scrabble championship in Philadelphia with a third-place win enjoying with a boy named Dylan Robbin, who was the identical age. He’s performed at out-of-state tournaments in cities that embrace Chicago, Dallas and Philadelphia and states North Carolina, Connecticut and Illinois.

Ricky enjoys being part of the Scrabble neighborhood. His mom, Erin Rodriguez, stated generally her son wins and generally he loses. Both approach, he’s involved for the welfare of individuals throughout the board and past.

In April, Ricky was featured in Folks journal for coming to the help of his pal Bianca Mohr, whose brother Jackson, 13, had died April 22, 2021, of sudden cardiac demise. He began a petition and picked up nearly 4,000 signatures requesting the town designate a day in Jackson’s honor. Ricky additionally wrote a letter to Mayor Ron Nirenberg, who issued a proclamation making April 22 Jackson Mohr Day.

Whereas different 3-year-olds flipped by way of image books, Ricky pored by way of hard-back dictionaries, from A to Z.

His mother and father needed to bind the backbone of 1 worn, well-loved dictionary with duct tape to maintain the pages from sliding to the ground. As his oldest brother Tony studied for spelling bees, Ricky would peek over his shoulder, including new phrases to his vocabulary.

When he realized the sport “Boggle,” he received video games he performed along with his siblings and fogeys. Then in kindergarten, a pal gave him a Scrabble Jr. sport for his birthday.

“It gave him an enviornment to achieve success and thrive,” stated his mom, Erin Rodriguez, 45. “It’s a approach for him to have enjoyable. He’s like a sponge. It’s like his baseball. Discovering issues that make them completely happy and revel in doing, that’s my dream for all of my youngsters.”

Relations respect Ricky’s Scrabble abilities. His mother and father, Erin and Guillermo, will strive their luck on occasion. The oldest sibling, Tony, 20, is targeted on math. The second oldest, Frankie, 18, is enthusiastic about enjoying devices, particularly the tuba. His youngest sister Evie, 10, performs piano and has a ardour for trend.

“It’s at all times attention-grabbing to see how pure the method involves him,” his father stated. “He has a singular strategy to phrases.”

The one shut second to Ricky is his grandmother Isabella Mallants. Ricky challenges her to the web sport “Phrases With Pals.” They play in 5 languages.

“It’s agonizing,” Mallants, 75, stated of enjoying her grandson. “It’s actually like a sport for him.”

Ricky belongs to a neighborhood of Scrabble gamers who communicate the identical language.

“He’s a prodigious expertise,” one in all his mentors, Matt Dewaelsche, wrote in a textual content. “He was already scary good a few years in the past, and if he retains working to enhance his sport, he could possibly be one thing.”

Considered one of his memorable follow companions was 86-year-old Pat Griffith. Two years in the past, the teen’s mom would drive him to satisfy the octogenarian at Brookdale Shavano Park for weekly matches. Contained in the first-floor foyer of the assisted dwelling residence, they performed pleasant video games on her outsized board. They didn’t dwell on factors, triple-word scores or wins — their time was about socializing.

She wrote a be aware thanking him for being her pal; it’s pinned to his bulletin board. A photograph of them collectively is displayed on his desk.

“It grew to become this candy friendship,” Erin Rodriguez stated. “They’d Scrabble in widespread and age didn’t matter.”

In July 2020, Griffith died. The loss hit Ricky laborious. He expressed his grief by typing a mirrored image about her demise titled, “My Buddy Pat.” Ricky wrote of how she taught him that the sport was “an effective way to make mates and it was okay to lose. He ended the letter with: “I used to be actually unhappy after I heard the information. She could also be gone, however she nonetheless lives on in my coronary heart.”

Relations stated Ricky is at all times composed, cool and even-keeled. In Philadelphia, he was nominated for the sportsmanship award. At a match in Houston, he stopped an opponent after she referred to as out her level complete. She grew to become flushed. He recounted her factors, which elevated, all for her profit.

“That makes me so completely happy to see,” his mom stated, “that honesty is way more necessary than successful.”

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