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Why this Family Walks for Autism Speaks

This blog was written by Jeff and Ashling Smidt, parents to two sons on the autism spectrum. Why do you walk? Send your story to and it might be featured on our website!

Jeff and I are proud parents to two special ‘not-so-little -anymore’ boys, Benjamin (12) and Timothy (10). Both our boys are on the autism spectrum.

It's hard to begin to describe what Autism Speaks means to our family. In some ways I feel like they're part of our family. Our first son, Benjamin, was diagnosed with autism over 9 years ago. Our second son, Timothy, was diagnosed 3 years after that. We were shell shocked, aimlessly groping in the dark. We scraped the bottom of every barrel – spiritual, emotional and financial. Then when we finally were able to keep our head above water, we met a parent of an older child with autism, whose one piece of advise to us was ‘get involved in the community’. And that year we attended our first Walk, six years ago, just the four of us. As the years went on we became more and more involved. We’ve ran half marathons and marathons for Team Up! for Autism Speaks, we have a large ‘Team Smidt’ at the Chicago Walk, we’ve chaired committees, sit on the Chicagoland Chapter board and now are the Walk Chairs. The one take from all of this, is the more we give, the more we get. It is one of the most rewarding investments we have ever made.

This organization has been our life saver. Have you seen the tool kits they have to offer? Life would not have been so difficult for us if we had the 100 Day Kit when the boys had first been diagnosed. Even years after their initial diagnosis, we still found it so useful. It's the tool kit I recommend to every parent new to an autism diagnosis. We've used most of the tool kits: the Challenging Behavior Kit, the Toilet Training Kit; The Grandparent's guide; the Medication Decision Aid.

They have so many exciting local grants. My favorite being swimming lessons grants. Unfortunately, drowning is the leading cause of accidental death in children with autism. They are naturally drawn to bodies of water. Until our boys learned to swim, it was one of our biggest fears. Autism Speaks provides grants to families to receive swim lessons from organizations that have proven to be effective in teaching children with autism to swim.

I could go on forever, but I just want to mention one more thing. Through Autism Speaks, we've found a community. A community where we belong. We've met the most inspiring and amazing individuals through this organization. United through one common thread...autism. And through this organization, autism does speak, it speaks loud and clear.

So for this, we walk. We walk for Benjamin and Timothy, we walk for every ‘Benjamin and Timothy’ and we walk for Autism Speaks.

Please walk or volunteer with us on May 16, 2015:

Can’t make it? Join out friends at the North Shore Walk at New Trier High School’s Northfield Campus on May 3, 2015.

Why do you walk? Tell us at Look to see if there is a walk in your area at!


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.