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Why I Walk: For a Sense of Community, Without Needing to Say a Word

This blog was written by Melissa Timmer, a mom of a 3rd grade boy who has autism. Read her touching story below and consider donating to her Walk Now for Autism Speaks fundraiser page. Find a walk near you here!

I have an amazing little boy that calls me “mommy”! He is almost 9 years old and in the 3rd grade. He loves trains, cars, planes, and just about anything that makes noise and moves! He has a smile that lights up a room and a giggle that wiggles far into everybody’s hearts! He adores his friends at school, and enjoys annoying his younger sister at home. 

But just six years ago, I wasn’t sure if I would ever hear him say “mommy” again. Or if he would be able to eventually express his likes to me. I was worried that his teachers and therapists would get frustrated with him. I dreamed about the day he acknowledged his peers and was unsure if he would bond with his sister the way siblings do. Six years ago, my life was flipped upside down and inside out with a diagnosis that I wasn’t prepared for. 

My husband and I knew something was going on. A child just doesn’t talk, make eye contact, and play appropriately for almost two years… then lose it all in a matter of months. We just didn’t want to admit out loud to each other our worries and fears or even that hushed word “Autism.” At some point early on during the diagnosis, we realized it wasn’t about us. It was about this precious son we had  It was up to us to get to the bottom of what was going on and give him everything we could within our means and beliefs to help him through it. So that is what we did with the help of too many people to begin naming! 

The following year, 2010, is when we formed our first Team Brycen and have continued every year. Since my husband works for a company that would require us to be transferred all over the state of Iowa, we made the choice to support a statewide event. This way, wherever we were located, we had a place to come back to every June… a constant in our life among the many ups and downs that autism brought along with it. We chose Autism Speaks for many reasons. And we continue to choose Autism Speaks every year for the same reasons and many more!

“Walk Day” for Team Brycen is amazing!  It’s something our entire family and many of our friends look forward to and talk about all year long. We arrive to an amazing set-up that morning where there is something for everyone! People to talk to, tents to see full of resources and autism items, inflatables and games for the children, snacks to fuel us for the walk and so on. In the 5 years we have been walking, we have NEVER felt out of place. Every year, I look around with tears in my eyes knowing this is one day where my son can be in the spotlight without his or my fear of his ongoing obstacles. If he gets frustrated and hits or yells, so what?! The people there aren’t going to judge him. If he starts to run away from us, I can guarantee there are more eyes than I can even count on him to ensure he is safe. Even those years when he was 6 and 7, and still riding in a stroller for many reasons including safety and muscle fatigue… nobody noticed because they just KNEW the reasons behind it as there were others doing the same.

We choose to walk every year to give back to a community that has supported us every step of the way!  Not just on walk day, but the friendships that have been built off the common goal we have in life…to support each other and our children in a battle many of us could never understand!  And for those of you who I may not know your name or anything specific about your child that day, just know we are in this together. Our son has been blessed with an unbelievable support system that extends far beyond what we could give him by ourselves, and we want to pass that support on to you.

“Walk Day” gives us one day each year where we witness that sense of togetherness and community without needing to say a word to each other and without fear of judgment. “Walk Day” brings us “home” every year to a constant we don’t always have during the other days, weeks, and months of our lives!

You can donate to Team Brycen here.


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.