Sunday, November 9, 2008

Walking for autism

You may have read some of my accounts of parenting an autistic child (such as the Waterford fair story.) Most of them detail struggles and worries. Yesterday, however, was a day of celebration and hope.

Our family participated in the Walk Now for Autism, a fundraising event that occurs all over the country at different times and in different cities. We live near Washington, D.C. Our local team was one of the largest to participate. We were blessed with beautiful weather, a huge crowd of participants, and lots of metropolitan police to block off strategic streets.

An event like this is certainly one to remember. Most parents of autistic children cringe at the idea of carting their children to a place with masses of people. Multiple unknown factors combined with unpredictable behaviors equals stressed out parents. But when everyone has a child like yours, it makes life a lot easier. My son is prone to sensory-seeking behaviors like bumping into random people, turning them into irritated random people. At the walk, all he got was smiles.

Looking around at the crowd truly sobered me. It was amazing to see so many people touched by autism. There were t-shirts of all colors, some detailing autism statistics (1 in 150 children,) some with pictures of a beloved child or adult, some with positive slogans or team names. I was so touched by the hopeful nature of this event that I spent most of the walk fighting back tears.

The most remarkable memory I will keep with me is that of the families. It was usually quite obvious who the autistic member of each family was. They were the ones who were in the middle, circled around by the rest of their family like satellites. They might be adults, teens, or toddlers, but their handicaps or challenges were quite apparent.

I looked at my family, and I realized that we are not the same as many others. Our autistic son is not immediately obvious to a casual observer. He looks "typical" (the academic word for what people would call "normal") and can hold a conversation most of the time. He can walk at a regular pace without assistance. His brain can process what people say and he can act on it.

The lesson: there is always someone with a tougher road than mine. I need to be grateful for what I have rather than what I don't.

1 comment:

Melodrama Mama said...

Great post Lauren! You, and your family are amazing!