On Saturday something happened that made me very, very happy.
Saturday was the day for our local autism awareness walk/run and this was the first year for me to participate. The event is sponsored by a local, parent-run organization and the money raised is then given out to families in the area in the form of scholarships, meant to cover needs not funded by some other means.
What I hadn't anticipated, however, is that Oliver would be with me. We had conveniently forgotten that Sami's first soccer game of the season was that same morning and, since Nik is coaching, that meant that Oliver and I were unexpected partners for the morning. We do a lot of walking so I wasn't too worried about the distance, but I didn't know the route, how many people would be there or how much support there would be along the way. So, at the last minute I decided that Oliver and I would bike the route. We had to bike to the event anyway since Nik had the car so, I reasoned, why not just stay on our bikes?
The main challenge to biking the route came from navigating safely around walkers and cars since the roads were not closed to traffic. But really, I must say, Oliver did beautifully. He adjusted his speed to mine, dodged people moving unexpectedly into his path and stayed to my right or my left depending on which side of the road we were traveling.
The absolute best part of the walk came about mid-way through the course. We were nearing the crest of a small hill, Oliver standing up to pedal, the bike swaying from side to side beneath his powerful legs, when I looked over to our right and saw a woman that I had hoped I would never run into again. I wrote a post about her sometime ago. That post marked the beginning of pretty big learning curve for me in which I discovered that professionals are only just people and some of them are full of shit. And I'll admit it: I am still quite bitter. Quite bitter. The kind of ABA that this woman and her organization practice cost us a lot, emotionally speaking. Her low-expectations for my son were manifest from the beginning but it took me a long time -- too long -- to figure out. By the time I walked away from the whole thing, Oliver had developed a phobia for adults. I think I did, too. But I walked away having learned some important lessons. And a resolve to never classify a living being according to any perceived notion of "functioning." So, to have this woman suddenly appear in our path, when Oliver was so beautifully managing, so gorgeously coordinating with me, so utterly competent and graceful -- well, it made my heart soar.
I'm sure this professional in our community wasn't the target of the awareness meant to be raised last Saturday. But I hope that when she saw my boy and I riding past her, skillfully navigating our way, past all sorts of obstacles, that maybe, just maybe, she revised her assumptions about what she thinks she knows about people with autism.