This blog was written by Anna Ocacio, mom to CJ, who has autism. You can donate to their Walk Now for Autism Speaks fundraiser page here. Why do you walk? Share your story at firstname.lastname@example.org and we might feature it on our website! Find a walk near you here.
I will never forget the first time CJ went camping with his Cub Scout pack. It was a family camp out, lots of adults and kids. We were sitting around the campfire having a great, comfortable evening. CJ walked up with a bag of chips in his hand. Just like I have always taught him, when something is difficult, ask for help. He turned to the man next to him and said, "Can you open these for me please?"
The gentleman replied "What are you? 7? 8? You should be able to do that yourself." I took the bag of chips and opened them for CJ and handed them back and off he ran to hang out with his buddies. And then I turned to that man and said, "Yes he should be able to do that himself, but he has autism. He has trouble with fine motor skills. He cannot button a button or zip a zipper. He has difficulty writing because he has trouble gripping a pencil. And he cannot open a bag of chips. But we are working on those things."
And then I walked away and I cried.
I know that man felt horrible. I was not angry with him. I was angry that he didn't understand what he couldn't see physically. I like to think that he was not without compassion. I choose to believe he would have helped, had he known. But the fact is we most often do not understand what cannot be seen with the eyes, but understood with the heart.
And so we chose to advocate. Because had he understood, he would have helped. And for people to understand, CJ has to be open about who he is, why he is "different", and what he needs help accomplishing.
Yes, today, years later, CJ can open that bag of chips, button a button, zip a zipper. He still has difficulty writing. He has moments of stress in social situations. But we have worked hard for progress. CJ is his own best advocate. He does not let this stop him from trying. The little and big things he cannot do do not diminish everything he is capable of accomplishing.
And so we walk...
We walk to raise awareness.
We walk to celebrate accomplishments.
We walk to give a voice and understanding for the kids who have no voice of their own.
We walk for research.
We walk for CJ...
Children and their families live on the spectrum together. It isn't just a part of everyday life. It is everyday life. It is a constant struggle to find balance. We struggle to make sure that even between the appointments and the therapy, to find time to make sure Angela knows that she is just as important part of this family as her brother. We struggle when planning vacations, holidays, birthdays, activities.
And so we walk...
We walk for family unity....
We walk to be part of a community....
We walk with siblings who are struggling....
The hardest 4 words I have heard in my life are "Your child has Autism". Let's face it, I already knew. Most parents are not shocked when they hear it, because they know. But knowing doesn't lessen the pain of hearing the words spoken out loud. The words we have whispered in the back of our minds. The stages of grief follow. As we mourn the loss of our hopes and our dreams, we are not yet ready to build a new future. We look for answers as we accept that life will never be what we imagined. And as we work through the pain and the loss, we find that we are not alone. There are more parents than we could have imagined sharing the same struggle. And we learn to build a new dream for the future. We join the others to share what is working and what is not. We form a community of compassion with the desire to help each other navigate this spectrum that isn't really a loss, but a gift of a beautiful and complicated mind.
And so we walk.
We walk for all the children who are similar to ours.
We walk to connect with those who have the similar and yet different path as our own.
We walk because CJ is a gift and not a burden.
We walk to help other families who need to find that light that shines.
We walk because CJ has taught us more about love and compassion than we imagined possible.
And on June 13th, we will walk....
Please consider making a donation....http://www.
My son CJ just turned 12 and is an inspiration.