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Guest Posting: Walk It Out

Usually, taking a child diagnosed with autism out in public is no walk in the park. There are the meltdowns, the outbursts the stares from others. Now imagine a city park, filled with hundreds and hundreds of children on the autism spectrum, gathered together. It can only be described with one word… beautiful.

At The Walk for Autism in Hampton Park (Charleston, SC), that’s just what happened. There we were, all colors, all religions, all backgrounds, and all ages gathered in one place, under one judgment-free sky. Aware that anything could happen, a meltdown, a wanderer, or a piercing scream, we were comfortable knowing that at least here, we all would understand.

This walk, as a parent of a special needs child, is one with an unpredictable path, with many more questions than answers. But it’s a walk that is worth every single step for the sake of our children. In the world of autism, silence is one of the most disheartening sounds. But at The Walk for Autism, it was the sound of music and laughter that … made our day.

There is an undeniable energy present when people come together as advocates, especially when children are involved.  That positive energy revealed itself every time the live band played. And play they did, tirelessly, until every child who wanted to, danced into a place called Happy, where they fell out from laughter, not from a meltdown. Parents relaxed and recharged and re-believed while the unmistakable joy that every child should rightfully know lifted them above staggering statistics, meetings,tantrums and health-care costs. Safe to say in that moment, all there was… was that moment.  #exhale

Not shocking were the number of people in attendance. There were hundreds. And next year there will likely be hundreds more because the numbers are rising. In April, the CDC revealed the number of children affected by autism is now 1 in 88. For boys, that number is 1 in 54. That means this year, more parents will get the unwelcomed news that they are now members of the autism community. It’s easy to feel like you’re in the fight alone. Events like this prove otherwise.

Even among strangers, our similar stories soon made our faces familiar. We were a family of sorts, and this event was one of many reunions. The voluntary exchange of information covered everything from hyperbaric oxygen therapy to gluten-free recipes to learning to measure life by the inch to businesses that recognize and cater to special needs families. No stories were right or wrong, only hopeful, as in, “…have you tried this, and in my experience…”

While some of our hearts were so heavy they came to the walk merely crawling, soon, we were running because there is certain strength in numbers and knowing you’re not alone. We met people there fighting for the wholeness of their children, patients, students, neighbors, and friends. Amazing were the high-fives, handshakes and hugs that were given as we exited the park. It is true that people go to school and learn to be many things, but no one learns years in advance how to be a parent of a child with special needs. There are some things you can only learn about by walking through it.

What are some of the things you have learned while walking it out with your kids?

More from GEM:

Life Lessons: Sarena James

Hey Mom! How ‘Bout You Just.Say.No?

Ask Rene: My Toddler Cries All The Time!

Sarena James, 35, is a wife and stay-at-home mother of three who enjoys theater and writing. She and her family reside in Charleston, SC where they frequent historic tours and relax beach side. Originally from Aurora, CO, Sarena is a graduate of Paine College in Augusta, Ga. Read more about Sarena and her family’s journey with autism at her website, OnAisle9.

4 Comments

  1. Whitney Eiland

    April 24, 2012 at 9:28 am

    Hi Sarena, as a mother of a 16 year old autistic daughter, I know how you feel. She is very happy young lady, that is the first thing people say about her. The most important lesson I learned was a few months ago. She was in the musical and sang at the Black History Talent show at her high school. She got a standing ovation at the talent show, it was amazing! As I observe my daughter she truly doesn’t let anything get her down, she is always optimistic about everything in her world. If she gets down, it is only for a few minutes, then she’s on top of the world again. I had to change some situations and decided to be happy despite it all based on watching my daughter.

  2. Faye

    April 24, 2012 at 1:59 pm

    Sarena is a gifted writer who always seems to display strength and inspire precious hope within her readers. May she and her son and the family be blessed as they walk through this journey.

  3. Carla

    April 24, 2012 at 2:35 pm

    I love someone with Autism. This story is so beautiful

  4. Sarena James

    April 24, 2012 at 3:09 pm

    Hello Whitney. Amazing how are children become our greatest teachers and how their courage makes us strong! Thank you for sharing this beautiful chapter of your daughter’s story! Good thoughts and best wishes to you and yours as we all continue on…

    Faye, Thank you for your kind words!

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