This post is from Robyn Schneider, mother of Alex and Jamie, identical twins with autism. Robyn has devoted her life to researching, educating, advocating, and working endlessly toward improving the outcome of her sons and other children and adults with autism.
Alex and Jamie are handsome, young adults. They are both severely autistic; non-verbal, and each have very challenging behaviors. Our double diagnosis of autism has been a daily struggle with which we have endured for 23 years.
As young boys, Alex and Jamie were very active, enjoying many sports, including horseback riding, gymnastics, karate and basketball. We knew early on that physical activity was a blessing for them, providing much needed outlets for their boundless energy.
However, it was not until the age of 15 that they found their true passions in life…
Alex and Jamie each run with one or two coaches, who direct them through the course, ensure they are properly hydrated, and keep them safe. They have run with thousands of neurotypical runners in over 150 races throughout the metropolitan area, including numerous marathons; among them are Boston Marathons and the NYC Marathon. They have become celebrities in the running and autism communities, and have been featured on ABC’s Good Morning America, World News Tonight, the New York Times, Runners World, Cosmopolitan, and a myriad of other newspapers and articles.
Kevin McDermott is their coach. He lives and breathes running! Kevin developed a special interest in Alex because he was fast; a "running machine" he would say, as he would take off at top speed and not stop until he was told to do so. In the beginning, he ran so fast that Kevin developed a hernia while holding onto his shirt for dear life! Kevin says Alex is a Zen runner. It is the pure joy of running that that he loves.
In a marathon, Alex is always assigned to the first wave, lining up with the elites, as he has earned the right to be there. They welcome him as their equal, and respect him for his running prowess. It brings tears to my eyes when I see runners offering him high fives and congratulations at the end of a race.
Alex’s speed saved us all at last year’s Boston Marathon. He crossed the finish line 45 minutes before the first bomb exploded. It was because of his speed that my friends and I left our front row seats in the grandstand to reunite with him and his coaches.
Alex achieved a personal record of 3 hours, 14 minutes and 36 seconds in the 2013 NYC Marathon, and was the first place International and American Achilles athlete to complete the marathon! He typically wins first or second place in his age group in every race and we have countless medals, plaques and trophies adorning our home. Alex doesn’t know how fast he is; his only desire is to run as fast and as often as he can.
Jamie is the complete opposite of Alex. He runs slower and enjoys the social aspect of a race. If he runs near a pretty girl and stops at the water stops, he is happy! But Jamie has become extremely, overly sensitive. He was traumatized after the Boston marathon bombing. He and his dad were diverted at mile 22 and were locked down in a church for hours, where he overdosed on the emotions of people in distress. We slowly got him back to running in large crowds; first by starting him on shorter distances in smaller races. Jamie triumphantly finished the 2013 NYC Marathon and this year’s Boston Marathon, and we could not be more proud of his achievements!
Alex and Jamie have inspired me to run, and we have gained inner strength as a family. As one of my favorite quotes from Christopher Reeve best depicts; “So many of our dreams at first seem impossible, then they seem improbable, and then when we summon the will, they soon become inevitable.”
You can learn more about the Schneider twins at www.autismrunners.com