Why I Walk for Autism Speaks
I am walking in the Autism Speaks walk for my nephew, Archer.
Archer was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) at just 27 months old after presenting with a lot of the typical Autism "red flags":
-Not responding to his name
-Not pointing at objects to show interest
-Not playing "pretend" games
-Avoiding eye contact
-Having trouble understanding other people’s feelings
-Having delayed speech and language skills
-Using few/no gestures
-Engaging in sensory seeking behaviors
Archer is now 2 months shy of his 4th birthday and is a completely different kid than he was on the day of his diagnosis. He is engaged, he is happy, he is learning and he is on a path filled with successes! While he is making tremendous progress it doesn’t come easy…
Doctors would describe him as “high-functioning" but that doesn't mean he doesn't require a great deal of intervention. He has been in therapy since he was 19 months old, receiving occupational therapy, physical therapy, speech therapy and play therapy and now at just 3 years old while most of his peers are spending their days playing with toys, watching tv, getting into mischief and in general enjoying a non-structured day of play, Archer spends his days working. He currently receives close to 30 hours of in-home ABA (Applied Behavior Analysis) therapy each and every week.
We couldn’t be prouder of the hard work and effort he puts in every day. We are blown away by all the things his mind is capable of, but sometimes its hard to understand how the same mind that is reading at a first grade level, counting to 100 and has started to learn the piano has a hard time reading social cues, engaging in interpersonal communication and following multi-step directions.
There is unfortunately a negative connotation to the word autism that stems from ignorance. People are afraid of what they don’t know or understand. We want to contribute to not only spreading awareness, but explaining the endless layers of ASD. I think of it as a puzzle and each and every child with this diagnosis is their own unique set of pieces that you have to put together in order to see the big picture that explains their complexity, uniqueness and potential. That takes a lot of work and it requires a lot of people working together- families, friends, therapists, communities, peers and of course, the child. But when everyone is helpful, sincere and honest success is inevitable!
One of my favorite quotes about autism is by Stephen Shore who says, “If you’ve met one person with autism, you’ve met one person with autism.” Archer is not defined by his diagnosis. There are so many characteristics that he possesses that make him Archer. He is kind, energetic, curious, loving, determined, intelligent, funny, fearless, relentless and also, he has autism. To know him is to love him and to love him is to have your heart forever changed.
I encourage everyone reading this to take time to educate yourself and your children on ASD. Consider making a donation to an amazing cause that affects 1 in 59 kids today. With your help we can take steps toward creating a kinder and more accepting world for all of our children.
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