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Autism Doesn't Slow Grace Down!

This post is by Megan Douglas, a proud mom and teacher. She is in her nineteenth year of teaching special education. Her two daughters were both internationally adopted. Sophie, 8 years old, is from Haiti and Grace, 14 years old is from Russia. Grace was diagnosed with autism at age six and we've been piecing the puzzle together since before the diagnosis.

Grace has been a runner since I met her in Russia. If her little feet were on the floor she was running. She was nicknamed "The Russian Rocket" within a month of coming home. Throughout her life she has loved running. As she approached middle school age I began to wonder if this might be something she'd like to do as a sport. She'd tried dance and basketball and a few other things. While she enjoyed those things, she simply had a hard time with the motor planning involved and wasn't very good at them. When she got to sixth grade I started trying to channel her running some in preparation of possibly joining the cross country team in middle school.

Because of her autism, which is classified on the border of mild and moderate, I thought it may be a potential battle for her to be able to participate. I had my game face on and was ready to tackle any obstacle that was thrown our way. Our Assistant Superintendent of our school district called to set up a meeting to talk about Grace being on the team. Although I've always had positive dealings with her I thought, "Here we go. Here comes the resistance."

To my surprise, I found just the opposite was true. She was excited about Gracie participating as was her principal! I was over the moon happy. They simply wanted to talk about what they might need to have in place to make it a positive experience for Grace.

Last year was her first year and my friend who also works at the Y was able to run with her and the YMCA in our town gave her the time to do that. The administration in our district contacted the state because we felt like Grace may need someone to run with her during the meets to make sure she stays on course. The state athletic associate approved that with some minimal guidelines and Grace had a successful first year in cross country!

This year is her second year. My friend was unable to run with her this year. We thought initially that she would be able to do it on her own. It caused her some anxiety and the assistant superintendent recognized that and sought out someone to run with her. She found a person who works for the district and is paying her to be Grace's running partner.

Grace had her first meet on Monday and she got off to a great start! She finished the run in 13:29, coming in 31st out of 52 girls! She overcomes so many obstacles to be able to participate. She has very hypersensitive hearing and can get easily over-stimulated with crowds and a lot of noise. She tunes all that out and focuses on the race. She is an inspiration to so many people. She is a walking testimony of strength, courage, endurance, and tenacity! She's amazing.

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.