TJ Trump is a busy boy.
He's up around 6 a.m., catches a bus by 7, absorbs a normal day at Durango High School, lifts weights after school,does extra curricular work, practices with the Demons' boys varsity lacrosse team until 8:30 p.m., works the grill for
his dinner, then does homework until midnight.
I like it that way for some reason," he said.
Trump was diagnosed with autism at 2½ years old. His particular brand of autism was considered low functioning, a
debilitating disorder that was supposed to strip Trump the capability to ever read, speak or write. Doctors suggested
he be placed in a special school or
I am thankful my parents did not accept those opinions," Trump said in his latest foray into public speaking, an
acceptance speech at the 46th annual Colorado Sports Hall of Fame banquet April 20 at the Denver Marriott City Center.
Trump, a 17-year-old junior at DHS, the son of Jim and Tina Marie Trump, was honored with the Disabled Athlete
Recognition Award, sharing a stage with this year's class of inductees in Bob Blasi, Marc Johnson, Dean Lahr, Joe
Sakic, Mike Shanahan and Larry Zimmer. His profile in the media guide shares a page opposite of Vail resident and 2010
Colorado Athlete of the Year honoree, Lindsey Vonn.
I got to meet Lindsey Vonn, took some photographs with her," said Trump, who said he skis - blues, blacks - every
weekend in the winter. Oh yeah, she's nice."
Trump was offered - and he accepted - a skiing trip with 1995 inductee and legendary skier Billy Kidd next winter in
He's going to show me some secret runs," Trump said.
He saw Sakic, but, unfortunately, didn't get the chance to meet him.
He gave a nice speech, though," Trump said.
When it became his turn to speak, Trump said, despite the 850 people in attendance, he really wasn't nervous, until he
saw his own 6-3, 170-pound image on the big screen at the back of the auditorium.
When I got up to the podium, and I looked up at and faced the crowd, I saw my own reflection staring back at me, then
I was like, 'Oh, dear,'" he said. I tried to handle it."
That's what separates Trump from most autistic people: He handles it.
A common prognosis for people diagnosed with autism is they lack social support, meaningful relationships, future
employment opportunities or self-determination.
Social support: At the beginning of his Hall of Fame speech, Trump listed a baker's dozen worth of support groups he
wanted to thank for where he is today.
Meaningful relationships: Again, quoting an excerpt from his speech, Sports have given me the opportunity to create
new friendships throughout the seasons and to further build upon those friendships each year. Every sport I participate
in makes me develop a sense of brotherhood as our team is unified in one common effort to win all of our competitions
Future employment opportunities: The 4.0-plus student wants to earn a masters degree, his doctorate, then become a
history professor. And maybe go to culinary school at the same time in order to support my time studying history," he
Self-determination: He plays varsity football; he plays varsity lacrosse; he plays basketball; he skis; he runs track
(he holds the Miller Middle School record for the 800-meter dash) ; he's a vice president and senator, serving a
two-year term, on the La Plata County 4-H Council; he's an All-State academic; he's an active member of the
international youth group, Younglife; he helps build sets for the DHS Thespian Club; he works for Adaptive Sports
Association; he's a gardener; he's a traveler; he's a writer, an editor; and he's a cook.
As easy as he makes it look, I have to try much harder than most," he said.
Trump is functioning, clearly, at a much higher level than his original diagnosis.
I couldn't speak. I comprehended little, and I couldn't read or write," said Trump, who was diagnosed in Albuquerque,where his parents still hold down regular jobs.
Jim Trump is a developer, and he commutes to Durango on weekends and for special occasions during the week; Tina Marie
Trump is an interior designer, and she makes the daily seven-hour commute back and forth between Durango and
Albuquerque on a regular basis.
They couldn't find a school for their son in Albuquerque, but they found a home for him in the 9-R public school
district. So they commute, and they've commuted now for 12 years.
I thank them for it," Trump said.
I am very proud of how hard I have worked, and I hope to continue to work this hard - and even harder - to achieve my
Trump, a two-sport varsity letterman (Sports gets your blood pumping," he said in our interview), is hoping to pass
his driver's test this summer, and he and his mom are hoping to finish their book for publication next winter. He said
he likely will attend Fort Lewis College for a couple of years, then hopes to get accepted into Gettysburg College to
complete his undergraduate work. He is undecided on where he might study for his masters, his doctorate and his
On May 11, he will be honored at the Board of County Commissioners meeting at 10 a.m. in Durango.
There are certain things an autistic person isn't supposed to be able to do, such as navigate a full curriculum of
classwork (he was doing so by the sixth grade) or to experience feelings on a par with the regular Tom, Dick and Harry.
Trump, however, is a very unique individual. He already has exceeded all expectations of an autistic person, has
accomplished everything he has set out to do in his young life, and he is turning out to be an exemplary and possibly -
apropos - history-making transcendent of the neurodevelopmental disorder.
It only takes one conversation with this young man to fall in love with his personality.
We can all take a lesson from TJ Trump's philosophy on sports: It stimulates my brain to function properly, reinforces
my manners by my showing respect and courtesy to opponents even after a major upset, improves respect for both myself
and for my fellow athletes and makes me try harder to further my potential in all aspects of my life."