Never Giving Up: local teenager with intellectual disability making friendships in summer sports program

LA CROSSE, Wis. (WKBT) – About 6.5 million people in the U.S. have some type of intellectual disability.

It is the most common development disability in the country.

But that isn’t stopping one young, local athlete to accomplish his dreams.

“Sometimes I feel like everybody else is judging me because I’m considered quote-on-quote different,” Lucas Beaston said, who has an intellectual disability. “I’m behind in my motor skills a little bit. So, I might not be as fast as the other kids.”

His limitations growing up were not only hard for him physically.

“Kids would bully me about having a disability,” Lucas said.

He says he wasn’t welcomed in many friend groups.

“I never really had a lot of friends,” Lucas said. “And most of the friends I did have, did have disabilities.”

On top of that, Lucas has experienced the challenges of being transgender.

“If they don’t accept you, are they really your friends?,” Lucas said.

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Lucas as a young kid. He transitioned from being a girl to a boy in eighth grade. Courtesy of the Beaston Family.

So he plays in a local adapted sports program during the summer to help change that perspective.

“To make more friends,” he adds.

Several kids around his age all share a similar story to Lucas’.

“So all of our kids have some sort of diagnosed disability ranging from intellectual disability, autism, etc,” UWL Center on Disability Health Coordinator Abbie Wagner said. “And then we have some with actual physical disabilities.”

But they’re all having fun.

“The kids come here and they’re really excited not only to play and participate, but also to see some of the college kids again,” Wagner said.

Lucas will tell you the program is making him more confident.

“With growing, and learning new skills, it can really help you improve as a person,” Lucas said.

And he’s hoping he takes his skills to his ultimate goal.

“I would like to be in the Special Olympics when I’m older,” Lucas said.

It will no doubt take hard work to get there, but Lucas won’t hesitate to tell you just that.

“If you don’t believe in yourself, then what’s the point of doing things moving on in life?,” Lucas said. “It’s because it’s something I love to do.”

Lucas is a sophomore at Onalaska High School. He soon plans to move to Minnesota to learn online.

The adapted sports program runs through the La Crosse Wellness Center. This year’s program started at the end of June and goes until next week. Kids play baseball, floor hockey and soccer.