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Parent: We feel like a 'normal family' at autism walk
By Deb Finken | Daily Herald Staff
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Published: 4/25/2008 12:07 AM

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When you are the parent of a child with autism, you try not to let it take over your life.

But it does.

How could it not? There's the special diet. The speech and occupational therapy. The vitamin supplements. The behavioral interventions. The Individualized Education Plan. The daily e-mails to teachers. The online parent discussion groups. The raging debate over vaccines. The raging debate over the terms "recovery" and "cure." The raging debate within yourself as you try to determine which methods or treatments will give your son the best chance at a "normal" life.

And after all that, do you have time to lobby legislators and advocate on behalf of autistic children everywhere? Uh, no. You barely have enough hours in the day to advocate of behalf of your own child.

That's where Autism Speaks and Walk Now for Autism come in. Both are dedicated to funding research into the causes, prevention, treatments and cure for autism, and to advocating for the needs of affected families.

This is why we walk.

This is why we'll get up early on May 18 and make the trek from Lombard to Soldier Field to head up Team Action Jackson. We'll join thousands of other people from Chicago and the suburbs in a march around the museum campus.

And for one day, we'll feel like a normal family. No one will stare at Jackson if he starts flapping his arms or lets out a joyous whoop. Other parents will smile when a clump of kids gets stuck at the top of the inflatable slide. There will be no curious glances. No judging looks. Just smiles and -- keep your fingers crossed -- sun.

The donations are just the cherry on top of a great day. It's wonderful to know we're helping a good cause, but even better is the feeling of being embraced by the support of our family and friends. Rarely in life do you get a chance to feel love in such a tangible way. But it's not about the dollar amount, it's about knowing that people care.

When we first started fundraising, I was a little nervous about asking people for donations. In all honesty, I'm still a little squeamish about it. In the years since, I have been amazed and humbled by the outpouring we have received. People still surprise me. I am touched each time I get an e-mail notifying me that someone has made a donation. It can be a lot of work to organize a team, but it's worth it.