American Special Hockey Association Takes Their Cause to Capitol Hill

The American Special Hockey Association took to Capitol Hill on Wednesday to brief Congress on the medical and behavioral benefits of their hockey program.

ASHA is the world’s largest special hockey organization with over 54 members in about 45 cities throughout the United States of America. They strive to give children and young adults with developmental and physical disabilities the chance to play hockey in an environment adapted to their ability level.

In addition to physical hockey skills, the program helps to emphasize the development of desirable characteristics from dependability, self-reliance, concentration, willingness to share and personal accountability. The love for the game helps to develop within each player as they strive to become more successful both on and off the ice.

ASHA’s therapeutic style of programming helps to offer the players an innovative way to manage their behavior. There are about roughly one in 68 children in the US that have been diagnosed with some form of Autism Spectrum Disorder, with about one in 42 boys and one in 189 girls.

As children with ASD grow older and approach adulthood, without the special needs they received as kids, ASHA believes that they can help take the lead and give them that opportunity. ASHA executive director, Dave Chase presented that message in hopes that it can unite both houses.

As a part of American Special Hockey Day on Capitol Hill, players, coaches National Hockey League ambassadors from ASHA took part in the hearings with the House of Representatives and the Senate. The message they sent Congress, entailed how hockey could be therapeutic to children and adults with physical and developmental disabilities.

Chase said, “It was quite an experience for your average Joe citizen to see how the corridors of power actually operate. The hearing in the House was briefly attended by Pennsylvania Congressman, Pat Meehan, who is a longtime hockey guy, referee and youth coach. It has been in his blood for a long time, so he is really supportive of what we are trying to do here.”

NHL players, such as Washington Capitals captain, Alex Ovechkin have become involved in the initiative as well. Ovechkin has held annual clinics with the ASHA athletes.

Chase added, “The results are measurable, which is very important in our community because as everyone tries to deal with Autism Spectrum Disorder everyone is trying different methods to be more successful with those borderline individuals that could fall between the cracks, between your neurotypical students when they are kids and your special needs kids.”

He continued, “There is a line in the middle that is getting wider and wider, and programs like ours, we are a purely therapeutic program. That is our main focus. Going outside of that, if there is competitive play, if it is done within that confine, we are OK with that. I like to call it compet-apeutic.”

In addition to the hearings, ASHA met with the staff members of about 17 congressmen and senators, in hopes to garner support for their efforts. Chase hopes that a bill sponsored by Senator Bob Casey of Pennsylvania, will be introduced to both houses shortly.

Chase said, “It could actually be a good time now. We may press forward more quickly than usual because it is a bipartisan bill that is noncontroversial. What a better time for the House and Senate to take a look.”

The organization which has been around for 16 years, felt that both briefings and all 17 private meetings were successful and everyone was eager and receptive to their cause.