SUN VALLEY, Calif. – Working out is how 17-year-old Joseph Roja keeps his mind off the fact that he can’t do what he loves right now which is play basketball.

Roja is autistic and one of the more than 38,000 people with special needs who are part of the Special Olympics in Southern California.


“I feel sad because it’s all because of the Coronavirus,” Roja said.

Due to COVID-19 Special Olympics of Southern California canceled their entire Spring season, which means Roja and his fellow teammates are now home.


He says he spends his days “staying at home, watching movies and TV sometimes, taking a nap and that’s all.”

“The routine part is what really throws him off because you know, he has this set schedule and once it got thrown off, it was hard for him to readjust and then just being cooped in all day, it’s not good, It sucks," said his father Juan Rodriguez.

Rodriguez says Special Olympics isn’t just a hobby for his son. Roja looks forward to it each week and it not only helps him get his energy out but also builds up his social skills while learning to play on a team.

“Like right now, he’s cooped up, kind of paces back and forth, but when he’s in basketball his eyes light up, he loves interacting with the other kids and just the structured sport, like to him, it gives him something to do, so he’s focused on this, focused on that, because Joseph really loves it, he loves having something to do,” says Rodriguez.

Roja’s time at home has definitely given him time to think about his goals. For example, being able to go to his first Laker game.

“I want to see LeBron James play basketball, yeah,” said Roja. “Yup, that’s my big dream.”  

Another dream is bringing home more Gold medals once Special Olympics starts up again.