What... (i.e. camp, dance class, birthday party)
Pick a NYMetroParents Region: All Regions   Manhattan    Brooklyn    Queens    Westchester    Rockland   Fairfield    Nassau    Suffolk  




     Home  >  Articles  > Activities Tips
by Linda Sheridan

Related: special needs baseball team, baseball for kids with disabilities, nyc baseball team for kids with autism,

The Downtown Challengers, part of the Downtown Little League, is comprised primarily of children on the autism spectrum, of various ages and functions. First established in 2007, the team continues to gain players and neighborhood popularity. 



On a sunny April afternoon at the Battery Park City Ballfield, the air smells of cut grass and perspiration. Kids in cherry red and royal blue baseball uniforms take their turns at bat, learning how to give it a proper swing. It’s a familiar scene at parks around the city. But the team practicing here is special.

downtown challengers baseball team 2014

The Downtown Challengers, part of the Downtown Little League, is comprised primarily of children on the autism spectrum, of various ages and functions. First established in 2007, the team continues to gain players and neighborhood popularity. Last year, a record number of 27 kids gathered at BPC fields to learn how to hit, run, and be a member of the team.

“This year, we had teams of ‘normal’ kids come play with us. It was a real big success,” says team manager Paul Colliton proudly. “We had phone calls from mothers, saying how great this was, that they’re going to continue.”

billy colliton

Billy Colliton, then 10, smiles after hitting the ball at the first Downtown Challengers game in 2007.

Since the beginning, Colliton, a portrait photographer and Battery Park resident, has been managing the team; his son Billy, now 17, is autistic and still plays. Colliton and his wife Jackie, an interior designer, already lead busy lives. Like other parents of children with autism, when they aren’t working to earn a living, their time is devoted to providing the best life and education possible for their child. Yet, when Colliton got an email from the Downtown Little League years earlier about starting a league for kids with learning disabilities, he leaped at the opportunity, envisioning a typical ball game where two teams play against each other.

baseball team for special needs“We quickly realized that couldn’t happen,” remembers Colliton, a lifelong baseball fan who holds season seats at Yankee Stadium. “Some of these kids are lacking in communication skills—they don’t get certain aspects. They need parental supervision. Now, it’s about everybody having fun and grasping the idea of a team sport.”

Jackie Colliton says it gives the kids the ability to be part of a team and do something that’s ‘normal.’ “It’s important for them to have socialization and also a sense of self-esteem and accomplishment,” she says.

The benefits are not just having social interaction and a sense of team spirit, but also physical conditioning. “A lot of these kids have poor motor skills—their bodies are tensed up,” explains Natasha Lamont-Lewis, an autistic counselor at Hawthorne Country Day School, who joined as one of the team’s umpires. “Baseball gets the kids running, jumping, skipping.” As each player runs to a base, Lamont-Lewis offers them a high-five. “They know they did something right when they hear that,” she says.

Downtown Challenger holds practice on Saturdays from April through June. For more information on Downtown Challengers, email Paul Colliton at collitonstudio@gmail.com, or visit downtownlittleleague.org.


Never lack for a family activity

Receive our weekly highlights newsletter · Over 1,000 local activities

More Activities Tips Articles

Language Workshop for Children Offers English as a Second Language
Social Learning Center Offers Alternative to Day Care
Columbus Gym to Offer Gymnastics and Music Program
New Facility for Youth Boasts 'Teacher of Team Sports'
Book Club for Young Girls Inspires a Love to Read

Be a good fellow parent and share this with a friend who would be interested
Email Friend

Local Activities Tips Sponsors

New York Tutition
New York, New York
347-403-9698 / 347-403-9NYT
New York Tuition services those in the Greater New...

Just Kidding at Symphony Space
2537 Broadway
New York, New York
Introduce Your Children to the Arts with the Best ...

Oasis Day Camps in NYC, LI, Dobbs Ferry and New Jersey
20 Jay St Suite 802
Brooklyn, NY
1 800-317-1392
An extraordinary value in day camp! Oasis is en...

545 Sixth Ave.
New York, NY
Kids will be introduced to the history of gelato a...
School at Steps (The)
2121 Broadway at 74th Street, 4th Floor
New York, NY
The School at Steps cultivates young dancers, ages...
See Our Activities Tips Directory

local zones


Nassau cont.


Suffolk cont.


Westchester cont.



Rockland cont.


Queens cont.


Brooklyn cont.


Copyright 2015 NY Metro Parents Magazine Site Design: THE VOICE