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The Only Thing That Matters When Your Kid Has Autism

Boy with Autism_Latina Autism Mom_4 Miles of Hope_AutismWonderland_Lisa Quinones Fontanez

It’s amazing how six simple words can have such an impact on a child’s life.

“… college athletes were asked what their parents said that made them feel great, that amplified their joy during and after a ballgame. Their overwhelming response: ‘I love to watch you play.’”

Have you said those words to your child lately? In a recent a Huff Post Parents article, Rachel Macy Stafford shares why they are the 6 Words You Should Say Today.

I’ll admit, I haven’t. But I’ve said 6 other words instead. And those 6 words are just as important.

 ***

Last Saturday I ran my very first New York Road Runners race in support of Autism Speaks. My 7-year-old son Norrin participated in the kids race.

“Norrin, when the man says ‘On your mark, get set, go’ you have to run as fast as you can, okay?” I whispered into Norrin’s ear.

I walked a few feet away to give Norrin some space. None of the other moms hovered the way I did – most of them didn’t have to. The Road Runner volunteers had separated the boys and the girls. Norrin was one of the tallest among the boys. Mostly typical kids, a few on the spectrum.

It wasn’t Norrin’s first race, but I still worried. I always worried about Norrin especially around so many typical kids. Could he keep up with them? Would they stare at him? 

I heard the Road Runner volunteer showing the boys how to stretch and prep for the run. Norrin was following along – not perfectly, but he tried.

And then it was time. As soon as the boys heard the word ‘go’, they were off. I really expected Norrin to be among the fastest. (He’s a kid who likes to run.) But he wasn’t. After running a few feet, Norrin slowed down to a walk. Some boys were still running and a few already finished.

Norrin scanned the crowd, looking for me or his dad. He was tired, winded, not used to running for a long stretch without a purpose. He’s used to running to something, not running to win. I stepped out from the sidelines yelling Norrin’s name, encouraging him to keep going. With me running and cheering beside him, Norrin finished the race. He was the very last one.

As Norrin crossed the finish line, I grabbed him and gave him a big hug and kiss, congratulating him on his accomplishment. “How do you feel?” Norrin asked. (We are working on feelings.)

“Proud. I am so proud of you!” I answered.

Latino_Autism_Family_AutismWonderland_Lisa Quinones FontanezAnd I was. I didn’t care that Norrin wasn’t among the fastest or first to finish. I didn’t care that he finished last. Win or lose – that doesn’t mean a thing to me. The only thing that mattered is that Norrin had a chance to participate. And I loved watching every single second.

 

Catch up with Lisa’s latest Babble posts:

Read more of Lisa’s writing at AutismWonderland.

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