In a recent feature in BBC Magazine, a Canadian pinball player said that autism has helped him become a Pinball Champion. Robert Gagno is a Canadian born winner of 2016’s Professional and Amateur Pinball Association (PAPA) World Pinball Championship in Pennsylvania.

Now aged 27, his mother first suspected that he has  autism when he was three.

“It wasn’t well known back then. The library books I found blamed bad mothering, which made no sense to me.”  Kathy, his mother said. Early on, the parents noticed that he had difficulty learning to speak. And with his jumble-order words he would feel frustrated when not understood by other people.

But as Claire Bates wrote, “Pinball provided a sanctuary from an often confusing world.” he had his first pinball machine at 10 years old and would play on hours end to learn the skill. And as his pinball playing skills improved, his confidence followed. Later on, he was able to play outdoors at bowling alleys.

Kathy told BBC “It’s helped with things like turn-taking, sportsmanship and making small talk and it’s certainly boosted his self-esteem.”

At the age of 19, Robert entered competitive pinball. Now, he’s Canada’s no. 1 Pinball player and as what the feature revealed, “He thinks having autism has boosted his game.”

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