A Google search states autism as “a mental condition, present from early childhood, characterized by difficulty in communicating and forming relationships with other people and in using language and abstract concepts.” In 2016, approximately 1 in 68 children in the United States is afflicted with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) according to the Centers for Disease Control.
Back in the old times, it was a struggle to cope with having an autistic child. Whereas, the child has all the love and support within the family , the outside world was a different story. Not everyone can be as understanding and supportive and accepting.
But times are different now. With the advent of new technology comes a much wider knowledge and perception of how and what this condition of autism does. There is widespread acceptance and inclusion – in and out of the homes and classrooms. Their talents, in any form, very much celebrated and showcased in all platforms.
Such was the case of Andrew Sylvester, a 10-year old with autism. His father PJ Sylvester was looking for events that Andrew and his twin brother Austin can do and be together. Enter Vincent Myers, school principal and avid runner, and Ainsley’s Angels, an organization aimed to “build awareness about America’s special needs community through inclusion in all aspects of life, by promoting awareness, providing education, and participating as active members in local communities.” Vincent Myers happens to be the principal in Austin’s New Jersey school and a staunch advocate of inclusion in and out of the classroom.
Ainsley’s Angels contacted Vincent Myers about a 5k run they were organizing and asked him who he wanted to be his partner. Principal Myers already has someone in mind – Andrew Sylvester, the 10-year old with autism. He has always believed in the child and he thought that this a perfect moment to show what he is capable of.
There was a lot of preparation for the race. Austin joined his twin brother in the race and several of Andrew’s classmates. The whole Sylvester family was there to cheer all three – Andrew, Principal Myers and Austin. There was an atmosphere of pure love and support for the event and participants. No one was more proud than the whole Sylvester family. And none was happier that Vincent Myers, who participated in so many races – marathons and triathlons – but considered this 5k run as the most memorable. For someone who has struggled with Type I Diabetes, to run with a child with autism, is indeed special. Indeed, #inclusionwins.
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