Hope. Rebirth. Silver linings.
In the middle of the despair of autism, there can be rebirth and yes – incredible hope. That was the resounding message from the Boston-area Walk Now for Autism Speaks Kick-Off in Burlington, Mass., on Wednesday night.
Terrique Chambers, a member of the Boston Police Department and of the cast of the TNT series Boston’s Finest, started out the evening with the story of his personal struggle with the diagnosis of his son Jaylen. The prospect that his son was not “perfect” rocked him to the core, he said. The day of his actual diagnosis was his “rebirth.” Chambers calls autism the best thing that has ever happened to him – giving him lessons in love, humility and patience he never would have received. Jaylen is his “guardian angel” he says – and he has sparked a “never get down, never give up” attitude.
That “never give up” attitude was repeated three times after Chambers – when three young adults with autism took to the stage and each told their stories of bravery and hope.
Eighteen year old Pat Breen set a goal for himself to do “some good” and make “himself proud.” He joined a community service group in the Boston area and earned the position of service leader just this year. He will return to his high school in Medford, Mass. to take some post-graduate classes, and plans to study computers.
Nineteen year old Patrick Linehan told the crowd he loves math and sports – especially the Red Sox! His real passion, though, is music. He taught himself the piano at the age of five and has been told he has “perfect pitch.” And he proved it, wowing the crowd with his performance.
Twenty-two year old Polyvios Christoforos talked about his artwork and how he had to hone his skills over the years. Passion kept him working hard – and it paid off! In 2009, he said, one of his paintings won a Congressional art contest and he got to travel to Washington, D.C., with his family. His challenge now, he told the audience, is being an adult in a world not ready for many adults with autism. He recently “aged out” of the system and had to move back home.
"At Autism Speaks, we have a multi-tiered, multi-year initiative in the works for teens and adults with autism," Liz Feld, President of Autism Speaks, explained after Polyvios’ speech. She outlined the plan, including transition tool kits, financial planning tool kits, employment tool kits, a large and small business initiative, and a post-secondary kit and scholarship due out next week. The extremely critical Housing Survey is about to wrap up, said Feld. When it is complete, we will have first-of-its-kind data on what our community needs and wants in terms of living arrangements for the future—allowing us to then build a plan on a national scale.
Loren Owens and Wally Brine from the Loren and Wally Morning Show on 105.7 WROR were engaging, wonderful emcees for the evening’s program.
Watch the inspiring speeches.
Terrique and Scherlaine Chambers
Polyvios Christoforos on Autism and Adulthood
Patrick Linehan on Autism and Adulthood
Pat Breen on Autism and Adulthood
View coverage from WBZ CBS Boston here.
Read more from The Boston Globe here.
*Photos Courtesy of Tarquinio Photography*