Thousands of people are raising millions of dollars each weekend this fall at events around the country like today's Greater Boston Walk for Autism Research organized by Autism Speaks. (For a list of walks around the country, see this link.)
Sporting team t-shirts with names like "Alex's Allies" and "Danny's Dream," there's no question that most of the participants want to do their part to help find effective treatments for autism, eventually the causes, and perhaps someday even a cure. But there's another, almost mundane motivation for many of the parents -- a chance to just hang out with their children on the autism spectrum in a place where their kids can be themselves and no one is going to stare, ask what's wrong or wonder silently why they are "so weird." Because everyone "gets it."
Beth Kaufman Kramer of Brookline, Mass., who has two young children on the autism spectrum, organized a team of more than 20 friends and family members to trek the 3.1-mile route along the Charles River. "Maisie's Groovy Gang," which included three grandparents, an uncle, an aunt, dear friends and teachers, raised more than $1,100 for the cause, while honoring the tremendous gains 6-year-old Maisie has made since her diagnosis four years ago. Taking turns with her husband, Brad Kramer, pulling Maisie's wagon and pushing their 2-year-old son Gabriel's stroller, Kaufman Kramer felt something she sometimes struggles to feel in her daily routine of coordinating early intervention services, meeting with therapists, and witnessing her kids' challenges playing with peers at the playground down the street.
"So much of the time, being a parent of children with autism, you're just bummed and sad," Kaufman Kramer said. "But I just love going there [to the autism walk] because all of these autism parents are smiling and happy. You feel like you're not alone and there's this colossal sense of community. Everyone there knows what we're going through, what our lives are like."
-- By Carol Gerwin