Welcome all! I'm so excited to share with you all the things in the works to make this year even better than the last; team shirts, hats, prizes! Last year was so fantastic, I love each and everyone of you so much for coming out and showing your support. It really means so much to me.
This past year has been a whirlwind of activity and change. We bought and moved into a new house, Michael started occupational therapy, I went back to school. So, so, so many new things. Changes are hard for everyone but especially hard for people with autism like Michael. He's struggled with the changes in his surroundings and schedule but continues to amaze me with his ability to learn and adjust.
Michael has had a boost in his language skills in the last year thanks to the help of his speech therapist, occupational therapist, and three BCBA's that work with him daily, along with being surrounded by our Las Vegas family. He says simple sentences like "I want (item)" and "I see (thing)" and surprises us by saying things like "bananas suck" and "no sleep". When words are too hard for him he uses his PECS (Picture Exchange Communication System) book to help communicate with us. He often echos words and phrases he's heard around him, a process called echolalia. All children use this process to learn speech, he uses it as a way to understand what's going around him or just because he likes the sound of the phrase.
He is a typical four year old. He loves lego, books, cars, and of course trains. He loves bugging our dog, Butters, and she loves bugging him. He loves to read and play video games and is surprisingly good at both. He has a love for classical music. He has an offbeat sense of humor (which is pretty common for the Lozano/Walls family so not all that offbeat). With his fantastic imagination he keeps himself pretty well occupied and is content to play 24/7 and fights us with every ounce of his being to stay awake. His laugh and smile are infectious.
I'm telling you all of this for a reason. As Michael gets older, the stares and odd looks in public places become more and more common. Other children don't understand his peculiar (to them) tendencies. The hand flapping, repeating of phrases and sounds, and lack of speech brings unwanted attention. Sometimes we get the unapproving look from other adults and parents. Sometimes we get the half whispered "I'd never let my children act that way" type comments. Sometimes those comments are not quiet and are given with an air of superiority.
My son is different. He is not a neurotypical child. I have No desire to force him to be or act like something he isn't. In a perfect world there would be no judgement to people like him. We live in an imperfect world though. It's my job and privilege as his mom to share my knowledge and experiences with and about autism. If I can help or ease the lives of just one or two people with autism I've succeeded.
That's what this race and fundraiser is all about. It is for hope and for fun. This fantastic foundation helps children and young adults with autism in so many ways. If you can come out to the race and show your support that is absolutely amazing. If you can donate just a little bit of money that is fantastic too. If you can take the time to learn a little bit about autism and share your knowledge; that will slowly help the world change for the better.