Saturday, March 27, 2010

5K Race for Autism

This morning I did my very first 5K walk (for a cause - I've walked 5K before!), joining over 900 people in a 3 mile jaunt around EMU's campus. We were walking on behalf of all those whose lives have been touched by autism - the teachers, the extended family, the parents, and especially the children themselves who are on the spectrum.

It was a humbling experience. Three people who have autistic children spoke before the race, telling stories of their home lives, their experiences in finding the Shenandoah Valley Autism Partnership, and what it meant to them to see us all there. All three cried as they spoke. As I listened, I surveyed the crowd, wondering how many people there actually knew people with autism, and how many were just there for the race - thinking how lucky they were if in the latter group. And then I realized how lucky I am. Ellie shows no signs of being anywhere on the spectrum. Yes, Jefferson has technically been diagnosed with Asperger's, but if that's accurate, he's very high functioning. Nothing like some of the kids I saw and heard about. And even though of course I wish he were what they call "neurotypical" and didn't have to struggle with AS or TS, he's alive. He's healthy. He doesn't have a terminal illness, he's not physically handicapped, his prognosis seems great. Yes, we're still looking for ways to help him - yes, I'm still experimenting with diet and trying extra hard to work with him on social interactions, but you know what? He's a great kid. He's smart and funny and a whiz at computer games. He's my son.

Thank you to everyone who was there, for whatever reasons brought you. We need everyone to help in this fight - and really, in any fight on behalf of people who are struggling with disabilities. As a mom, I have now met many other moms whose kids are battling a variety of diseases or disabilities I never even thought about when I was younger - autism and Asperger's, cerebral palsy, heart defects, congenital adrenal hyperplasia,  Tourette's. The labels break your heart. The differences break your heart. But the children heal it. Because we're all in this together, and even if we're in different cars, we're all on the same train.

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