"She's on the spectrum..(sobs)" my wife told me. The confirmation of the problems at Romp n Roll, the lack of eye contact, the nonverbal stimming, and lack of verbal communication has a name...autism. I began crying tears not shed since my fathers passing. All the thoughts came streaming across-“why?” “What had we done wrong?” “This can't be true.” “Second opinion time.” I'd like to say I handled the news with steely resolve, but it was more of despair. I then downloaded an app to find out what autism is. When this impacts 1 out of 88 kids, shouldn’t I, a rather well-read college grad, be aware of such a neurological disorder. When I tell somebody my daughter has autism, they immediately exhibit sympathy, followed by a sort of vague comprehension. Sometimes, a bold individual will ask, "what is autism ?". I have to do my part to raise awareness.
Sophia, my Sophie, the holder of the keys to my heart, has had me wrapped around her finger-and she knows it. She is highly intelligent and I'm so proud of her. She is affectionate and funny. In short, our relationship is pretty similar to a lot of daddies and their daughters. However, unlike many, we communicate via PECS and more recently, statements like "I want ----". We take her everywhere. From sitting through The Wiggles Live to spinning around and around on rides. If it makes her happy, we will do it. We think we're damn good parents. We have literally fought to develop the speech we have and still need. We worry about her safety, her future, her wants. More than anything, I want to know about her day. Some guys gripe that their kids never shut up...I would give my right arm to hear about her wants and dreams. This is a dream that will come true.
You know we argue a lot in this country, and we can be down right mean to one other because of differing religion, sexual orientation, creed, political affiliation, and ideals. We also have the capacity for great goodness and grace. Check out how a community searches for a boy with autism in Hanover County, VA, or the surfer dudes with tats and dreads working with Sophie in Nags Head for "Surfing For Autism". Often we see communities come together for one another. I am touched by these selfless acts.
I am going to do something special to raise money and awareness. I'm a going to test my limits by climbing Mt Kilimanjaro in Africa and coordinate with Autism Speaks. I'm going to blog about it. I will do my small part to help educate as many folks about an epidemic that affects 1 in 88 kids. Despair has given birth to a better man with steely resolve. I will fight, and I will work harder, be more patient, expose my beautiful daughter to more and more, and unlock her abilities. And one day, I’ll come home and she will tell me about her day.
Please join me in this fight-educate and donate. Join me as I go…
Climb Kilimanjaro for Sophie