A Major League Baseball team just signed the first player with autism

In a historic first for Major League Baseball, the Kansas City Royals recently signed Tarik El-Abour as the first player known to have autism.

El-Abour grew up in San Marino, California, where he displayed a passion for baseball at an early age. His mother, Nadia Khalil, told the San Marino Tribune that the way his mind worked contributed to his success because it drove him to learn every aspect of the game and to practice frequently.

“He knew he had to practice. He knew he loved it. He told me that when he grew up and played baseball, he would buy me a house wherever he plays, so that I could watch his games live,” she said. “He did not know yet how different he was. He did not know yet how autism was going to speak for him before he could speak for himself.”


El-Abour eventually made it to the minor leagues, where he spent two seasons as an outfielder in the Empire League. He was named rookie of the year in 2016 while playing for the Sullivan Explorers. He had a batting average of .323. He also played for the Plattsburg Red Birds, where his average was a .240.

After winning a championship, El-Abour was asked to throw out the first pitch at a Royals game during Autism Awareness night. He was quickly spotted and signed to the Royals.

El-Abour’s success will no doubt be an inspiration for young athletes with autism. His story shows how persistence and dedication can pay off.

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“Tarik means ‘strength’ in Arabic,” Khalil said. “I named him that because I almost lost him twice during pregnancy. I looked for a name that meant something very strong.”

What To Know About Autism

As with any health issue, it’s best to get diagnosed as early as possible. The same goes for children with autism.

According to the CDC, every one in 68 children in the United States has an autism spectrum disorder, with boys being 4.5 times more likely to have the disorder than girls.


Many children don’t get diagnosed until they’re older, even though experienced professionals are able to make reliable diagnoses by age 2. The average age of diagnosis is 4 years old, with some variance based on the type of disorder.

Here’s the breakdown from the CDC:

  • Autistic disorder: 3 years, 10 months
  • Pervasive developmental disorder-not otherwise specified (PDD-NOS): 4 years, 1 month
  • Asperger disorder: 6 years, 2 months

It’s important to pay close attention to a child’s behavior early on to see if they’re displaying the signs of autism, as early intervention is beneficial. And research also shows that parents generally notice developmental differences in their child even before he or she is a year old.

Here are 7 signs of autism to look out for in babies and toddlers. If your parental instinct tells you something may be delayed in your child, it’s a very good idea to trust that and seek an expert opinion.