This post is from Kim Kaplan, a member of our Los Angeles Walk Now for Autism Speaks Committee. Why do you walk? Tell us your story at IWalkFor@Gmail.com. You can sign up for a walk in your area by going to walknowforautismspeaks.org
It was my son’s first birthday. During the party, I was hosting and enjoying the company as was my husband. Our son was the first baby in the Kaplan family in years and we were excited. We were having a great time.
During the party, my husband’s friend was watching our son who was sitting on the floor staring at a ceiling fan. This friend’s wife worked with autistic children at the time and the friend made a comment about our son. He said, “If Jenn saw your son staring at that ceiling fan, she might say he has autism.”
My husband’s friend said this to my husband.
At the end of the party, my husband Googled “autism” and found some very disturbing and frightening information. Our son did not look at us when we called him name. He spun objects. He was not walking or talking. He did not babble or crawl. He stared at ceiling fans.
My husband discussed this with me later that night.
We called the friend’s wife, but they were not home.
We did not sleep that night.
The next day, the friend’s wife called us back. She asked us to first get off of the Internet. Second, she said, “I’ve been meaning to talk to you.”
The wife went on to tell us that she had seen things about our son she didn’t like. She suggested we get our son evaluated for autism.
A few weeks later, at the urging of the friend’s wife and my husband’s best friend (a pediatrician), we called the Lanterman Regional Center and booked an appointment for an autism evaluation.
When we arrived three weeks later, we were congratulated on bringing such a young child in for an evaluation. The evaluator (at the time) told us they didn’t get many 14 month olds.
The evaluation lasted three hours. It was exhausting for all three of us.
At the end of the evaluation, the evaluator told us she was recommending our son for Early Intervention Services. He was going to receive Floor Time and Speech.
At eighteen months old, our son was re-evaluated. He was given a provisional autism diagnosis.
At three years old, the “provisional” was removed. Our son officially has mild, high functioning autism.
A year later, I met Phillip Hain for breakfast. My husband and I had kept our son’s autism mainly to ourselves. We simply did not know how to talk about autism.
I did not feel comfortable until 2008.
That morning, Phillip recruited me for a position for the Los Angeles Walk Now for Autism Speaks known as the Volunteer Chairperson. I didn’t quite know what it was, but I was eager to help.
This year’s LA walk will be my seventh as the Volunteer Chairperson. I have seen the walk explode from 12,000 walkers to 48,000 walkers. We raised two million dollars last year.
Because of my duties, I have yet to actually walk the walk.
But, I do “walk.”
I walk because of my son, Jason.
I walk to tell people my story.
I walk to help people try to avoid making the mistakes we made.
I walk to give helpful advice and steer people in the right direction.
I walk to give encouragement and to listen to stories from other families.
I walk because of what I have learned from my son (and what I have learned about him).
I walk for all of the incredible and dedicated people who have worked with my son over the years. The friend’s wife, the pediatrician friend, our incredible DDT supervisor, the best OT facilitator I’ve ever experienced, our respite person of 6 years, my son’s school aide of 5 ½ years, and a long list of facilitators, after-school aides, sports coaches, teachers, RSP administrators, friends, and family. And, probably many others that I cannot recall.
I walk because I care about autism awareness, for my son and for every autistic person.
Director Tracy Wren and I had always wanted to do a project together (highlighted in the video above). An opportunity arrived when Tracy met Emmy award-winning actor, Edward Asner, and producer Stephen Alba. Ed Asner and I both have kids on the spectrum and Tracy and Stephen are both parents. The four of us put our heads together and came up with a story about a grandfather who spends a day with his autistic grandson. With help from Temple Grandin, the grandfather not only begins to understand his grandson, but learns to accept him. It is autism awareness right in his own backyard.
Our film is “Autism and Cake.” The film stars Edward Asner. I wrote the screenplay and executive produced the film. Tracy Wren directed it and Stephen Alba produced it.
We made this film to help with autism awareness with the message that sometimes awareness begins right in your own backyard.
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.