Former Yosemite High star softball catcher Katie Thompson (class of 2017) is beating the odds – and then some – at Reedley College.
Thompson, 19, just completed her first year behind the plate for the Central Valley Conference co-champions, playing backup behind Maddison Shubin from Clovis West.
And Thompson was one of many athletes from Reedley, Fresno City College and Clovis Community college honored April 30 at the Kiwanas Torch of Excellence dinner as an outstanding academic athlete (3.7 GPA or higher).
What sets Thompson apart from all the other players in high school and college is that she is autistic, a diagnosis made when she was 3.
“This is Katie’s first time living away from home but she has assimilated well into college life,” said her mother, Beth Jones of Oakhurst. “She loves her independence and has made some very good friends with some of her teammates.”
About 1 percent of girls who are autistic go to college, her mother said.
Jones gave a lot of credit to Reedley College for having outstanding teachers who are approachable and care about their students. “The school is great, providing a safe and comfortable campus for Katie and all the students.”
In addition to her softball skills, Thompson is an award-winning artist (she designed the Badger softball logo for her senior year) and a self-taught yo-yo master.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates 1 in 68 children have autism, including 1 in 42 boys and 1 in 189 girls.
“She accepts every challenge that’s before her with grace and determination with her focus on nothing less than success.” Jones said. “She attacks her studies with the same passion she has on the softball field.”
Jones said her daughter is considered to have high-functioning autism, but that doesn’t mean things are easy. While relying on patience to navigate the challenges of school and the softball field, everyday functions that most take for granted can be a challenge for Thompson.
She showed hints of the Autism Spectrum Disorder at a young age, Jones said, before that initial diagnosis. She was later diagnosed by a psychologist for Bass Lake Joint Union School District in fourth grade, after she was brought out of homeschooling.
Thompson also has Auditory Processing Disorder, meaning words, and the way her mind processes them, can sometimes be difficult.
Yet, “I don’t feel limited by it at all,” Thompson said before going to Reedley. “It’s not a disability, it’s a different ability.”
Thompson is undeclared at this point although she is exploring possibilities in criminology, psychology and has a special interest in American Sign Language.
“I am definitely competitive,” Thompson said. “When you’re on the softball field, you’re really focused. There has been a few kids that bullied me, but I just ignore it, and move on.”
Jones said the amount of effort and focus Katie has to put into her studies alone is at least three times that of a person with what they call a “typical brain.”
“Yet Katie is excelling, and all due to her own drive, to make something of her life,” said Jones. “She is an inspiring young adult and I couldn’t be more proud of her.”