As most of you know, April is Autism Awareness Month and April 2nd was World Autism Awareness Day. I shared the following quote and image on the I Am In My Head Facebook Page last Monday, but I wanted to make sure that we shared it on the blog here too.
Ryan hand wrote the entire thing. He was very focused and as you can see, he uses very little “stim” or repetitive words in it. I hope that our followers will accept Ryan’s challenge this month and EXTEND A KIND HEART TO AN AUTISTIC THAT YOU KNOW.
Early last week, when I saw that the temperature for the 5K was likely going to be in the 40s, I had a bit of a panic attack. I don’t do well in cold weather and some of you may remember Ryan’s song about “THE CURIOUS COLD” and how he does not like it at all either. I wanted to make sure that Ryan was prepared for the fact that it might be very cold for our upcoming run. I mentioned it throughout the week and the night before, we sat down in the classroom to talk about it. Ryan’s response was MOM, I’M TOTALLY EXCITED ABOUT 5K. LIKE TO THINK THAT A REAL FUN TIME CAN TRUMP THE COLD.
So the next morning, we got ready. Ryan and I had talked about dressing up for the 5K. I found awesome Wonder Woman sunglasses and some blue leggings with white stars on them. Mark calls Ryan “The Flash” because of Ryan’s extremely quick ability to grab things that he wants (we are working on his impulsivity). I asked Ryan if he wanted to dress a bit like the Flash for the event. He replied I LOVE DRESSING UP. We bought a Flash lanyard for Ryan to carry during the race (he likes carrying lanyards, beads, or strings) and I bought him some Flash socks, which unfortunately he could not tolerate (so they will be mine now as Ryan has big feet and so do I). I also bought red and yellow hairspray for his hair.
Since it was so cold, we dressed in layers. Ryan cannot tolerate a hat, gloves, or a scarf, so we had him in two shirts and a coat with a hood. At race time, it was 34 degrees. We hung out in the car until the start time, and then we did the warm up with everyone. The turnout for the event was considerably less than last year and I am 100 percent sure it was due to the weather. Freckles, Randy, and Grace ran the race with us as well.
Well we started and took off running. Ryan ran and ran. I was sure that we would have to stop to walk some time soon, but he kept running. In our C25K training, we only made it to the end of week 4 and the most that we had run before walking was 5 minutes. On the day of the race, we slowed down to grab water and I looked at my watch. It read 9:20. The race started at 9:00, so we had run for 20 minutes straight. I honestly couldn’t believe it. After a sip of water, we took off running again.
It was freezing. No seriously, it was freezing. My fingers felt like they were going to fall off (I am not sure why I did not think to bring gloves for myself). Both of our noses were running and my eyes were streaming tears from the wind. We kept going. We passed people. Like a lot of people. I could not believe it.
As we got to about 3/4 of the way done (I think), Ryan started to struggle. We walked a bit, but then ran again. He began crying as we were running and he could not stop crying. He has told me before to push him, but I was afraid that I was pushing him too hard. I honestly was not sure what to do. It was too cold to stop and we were too far from the finish line. I just continued to encourage him and keep him going. We came up to a turn and there were volunteers standing out in the cold, cheering us on. I kept telling Ryan that they were cheering for us and that we could do it. I thought that maybe this helped him. Finally, I could see the finish line in the distance. I kept telling Ryan that, “There is the finish line! I can see it! Can you see it? We are almost there! You did it! You did it!” As I said this, he stopped crying. He kept running and seemed to run faster.
We crossed the finish line and Grace was there to greet us (she finished about a minute before us). I looked down at my phone and it said 9:42. This was not a timed race, and in all of the chaos of starting the race, I did not keep time. So we beat our goal of 45 minutes (I think that we could have shaved off more time, but on the second water break, we got Freckles some water and that took some time.) We then went over to the tables and grabbed water and snacks and that is when I finally thought to get a picture. My hands were still so frozen that it was hard to operate my phone.
Ryan was smiling. Even though it was freezing, he was smiling. He knew that this was a big deal.
We sat down to talk about the experience later that day, in our warm, heated home.
MOSTLY EAGER TO DO ANOTHER ONE. CAN REALLY BE SO PROUD OF MYSELF. BECAUSE IT WAS SO COLD, DEARLY HARD ON ME.
“Ryan, I was worried that you wouldn’t want to do another 5K because of this experience. I am so glad that you do. Did you want to give up at all during the race?”
CAN REALLY SAY YES. FEELING SO COLD BUT I STUCK WITH IT.
“Why were you crying during the race?”
I CRIED BECAUSE IT WAS SO HARD TO RUN IN THE COLD.
“Was anything hurting you during the race? I was a bit worried that you were in pain.”
“What did you think about passing people in the race?”
IT FELT EXHILARATING. WE PASSED A LOT OF PEOPLE.
“We sure did. What did you think of the people cheering us on?”
IT HELPED ME.
“Why do you think that you could run for so long when we hadn’t trained like that?”
I WAS SO MOTIVATED, MOM.
“How did you feel once it was done?”
“Did I push you too hard?”
I REALLY APPRECIATE PUSHING MOM. YOU TOLD ME FINISH LINE WAS CLOSE SO IT MOTIVATED ME TO GO FASTER.
“Do you really want to do it again? Like train and then run another 5k?”
REALLY YOU CAN TRAIN WITH ME?
“Yes of course. I felt better when we were running vs. walking. I was tired when we walked and in the beginning, you pushed me because I was sure we were going to stop and walk but you kept running!”
CAN DO IT AGAIN SOON?
“Sure. Let me look into finding some more races. I know that there is one in a few weeks where the high school band will be playing songs along the raceway.”
YOU CAN RUN WITH ME EACH ONE?
Yes and of course Freckles can.
FRECKLES IS AMAZING FOR RUNNING WITH US. SHE HELPS ME STAY WITH YOUR PACE, MOM. I AM SO HAPPY TO HAVE HER.
“Me too. She is awesome. Do you think that running is good for autistics?”
I THINK IT IS SO GOOD FOR AUTISTICS BECAUSE ANY TYPE OF EXERCISE IS A GREAT THING.
“Last question, why do you like running so much?”
CAN REALLY SAY I AM AN ATHLETE NOW.
8 thoughts on “Autism Awareness Month and the 5K”
Ryan you inspire me every time you blog. It was so cold Saturday I could hardly walk to my car so proud of y’all for doing the race love you guys . Susan
Ryan, you are such a remarkable young man. Congratulations on finishing the race under those cold conditions, I’ll be honest, I’ve never run a race and I don’t think I could specially if it’s so cold. So proud of you. Yes, you are an athlete!
WOW! Just WOW!
I met your grandfather Mark the other day at his dealership and we got to talking about our families and he told me about you. He gave me a business card with your website on there and told me to check it out and I told him I would. When I told him I would, I meant it 100%. I work with kids that are autistic by giving them baseball lessons and helping them with their social skills while having fun. Buddy you have such an inspiring story and you yourself are such an inspiration to people. Although we have never met, I will continue following you on your blog and seeing all the amazing things that you are doing and accomplishing. I love you thoughts on meanness and kindness. When people tell me this world is becoming worse by the day, I will point them to your website so they can see there is hope for this place after all.
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