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Why I Walk - Leo Zanchettin

This post is by Leo Zanchettin of the Jacksonville Walk Now for Autism Speaks. Leo is the father of six, four of whom are on the autism spectrum.

Hi, there. My name is Leo Zanchettin, and I’ve got plenty of reasons to walk for autism. Actually, I’ve got four main reasons. Their names are Richard, Louise, Chris, and Nicholas—our kids who are on the autism spectrum. I’ve also got two other reasons. Their names are DeVaughn and Adele—our kids who are not on the spectrum.

That’s right. My wife (Katie) and I have six kids, and four of them are on the spectrum. We like to say that we put the fun in high-functioning! We have so much fun that I’ve set an ambitious goal for this year’s walk—and a tempting incentive to go along with it. I’ve promised my donors that if I can raise $2,000.00, I will dye my hair blue for the walk. I had initially set a $1,500.00 goal, promising just to put a blue puzzle piece in my hair, but I’ve already met that goal. So now it’s time to raise the stakes a bit. Yes, I will “go blue” for autism research!

So why do I walk? First, because I don’t want any family to go through the heartbreak we went through when our oldest child was diagnosed at 11 years of age—or the heartbreak that he went through for so long before he was diagnosed. I walk because I want every pediatrician to become expert in early detection. I want every child on the spectrum to benefit from early intervention—the way my older ones did not but my younger ones have.

Second, I walk because I dream of a world where educators recognize and welcome students on the spectrum. Too many times have we heard teachers telling us that there’s nothing wrong with one or another of our kids—at least nothing that a little extra discipline won’t solve. I walk to help raise awareness. I want kids on the spectrum to receive every opportunity to grow to their fullest potential.

Finally, I walk because I want every family touched by ASD to have access to scientifically validated, clinically effective treatments that really will help them. We are just beginning to understand the causes of ASD. We are just beginning to figure out what works and what doesn’t. I walk because I want trusted experts to protect families against hope-stealing, wallet-draining “miracle cures.”

So that’s why I walk. My kids are my heroes, and I want to give them everything I can.

Follow Leo and his family as they reach their goal of $2,000:

The Autism Speaks blog features opinions from people throughout the autism community. Each blog represents the point of view of the author and does not necessarily reflect Autism Speaks' beliefs or point of view.