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      Special needs soccer league needs more participants

      It's a popular sport all over the world, and now a soccer association in McAllen will be bringing the sport to children with special needs in the Rio Grande Valley.

      The McAllen Youth Soccer Association said they're pumped up and ready to roll with their special needs league, but they need more children to register.

      Rene Cortinas has a 10-year-old autistic son. He keeps a close eye on him.

      "My wife and I have been raising our son with the autism spectrum disorder since he's been born," said Cortinas.

      Autism is a developmental disorder that affects the brain's normal development of social and communication skills.

      To help increase his son's attention span, Cortinas keeps his son Rene Seth active.

      "I'm hoping that him being enrolled with that, he'll be able to participate with other kids and engage with other kids," said Cortinas.

      Cortinas is a football coach at Edinburg High School and said his son has taught him patience making him a better coach, and he would like to give his son the gift of life skills as well.

      He's hoping that the McAllen Youth Soccer Association's new league, High Achievers Special Needs League, will give Rene Seth a new set of skills.

      "I know when I take him out to the park and fly a kite or just play on the swings or whatever, he does see other kids being involved in that soccer, so he tends to gravitate towards that direction and wants to see what these kids are doing," said Cortinas.

      The league is for kids with special needs from four to 12 years old.

      Organizers said they put this league together after seeing kids with special needs watching their brothers and sisters play soccer with the association.

      "It's just very difficult seeing kids coming out and just being bystanders watching their siblings play a sport that I'm sure they would love to have the opportunity to play also," said Paula Hamilton with the McAllen Youth Soccer Association.

      But so far, they only have enough players for one team, and with time ticking away, they want other parents to be aware of the league in hopes more will join.

      "We're trying to offer it free of charge in hopes that we will get some more children registered," said Hamilton.

      Cortinas said he's grateful for this opportunity and said it could make a world of difference in the child's life.

      "You know when I can see him smile because he's excited about something it really means something," said Cortinas.

      The soccer association said they accept children of all special needs including those wheelchair bound.

      Those interested in registering their children can go to for more information and on-line registration forms.