Run Dylan Run!

Autism and Running. Everything IS possible!
by JAK’s guest mom blogger from Burlington, Colleen Nagle

Watching my 13 year old nonverbal son sitting lazily on HIS oversized chair, legs sprawled across the ottoman, concern drifted through my mind. Not unusual to worry over my son with Autism, but now it was extending to his physical or lack of physical activity. So many kids today seem to be less active than when we were kids due to video games, texting, iPods, computers, etc.. For my son Dylan his lack of activity is related to his disability. He has no friends, there is no riding his bike to a friend’s house, no football or soccer, no gym class because he is home schooled. He and I, his mom, both needed to find a way to incorporate activity into our lifestyle.

It began simply by getting outdoors. Going anywhere we could wander…we took our first steps at outdoor garden centers, park paths, outdoor art expos, farmers markets, anywhere we could stretch our legs. It was easy to see that Dylan enjoyed getting off of his comfy oversized chair and exploring nature and interacting with others.

Our next step was dusting off his 3 wheel adult tricycle and checking out our own neighborhood. The boy was all giggles and smiles, his body instantly relaxed and he looked so happy and natural on his bike. He looked like any typical kid. People walking or in their yards would wave and say hello to us which was very reinforcing to Dylan, who always responds greatly to verbal praise. This encouraged him to keep riding and go out with me again the next day.

Eventually I began to run and Dylan would ride his bike behind me. He was so courteous, keeping a safe distance, never running me over! We gradually worked our time outdoors to 90 minutes of me running and him riding along, with his smile and bottled water.

One day, headed out for our daily bike/run, we found Dylan’s bike with a flat tire. Crud, now what?! I can’t fix it myself so we cannot bike/run today.

A solution. We begin to walk and Dylan begins to cry and fuss. He uses sign language and gestures to tell me he wants to go back home. I am determined to have him at least try running, he’s seen me do it for months…maybe if I get him running he’ll be ok. So I start to jog and tell him simply, ‘Come on.’ He jogs a few paces behind me, fussing and whining. At least I know he’s there, I can hear him complaining. We jog for a minute and then walk some, then resume the jogging and continue to alternate with walking. After 20 minutes we are back home, he does a few stretches with me and then runs immediately and gratefully back to his oversized pillowy chair and ottoman for refuge.

The next day. ‘Come on Dylan!’ Pleased and excited, he jumps up and heads outdoors to the garage for his bike. I head to the side of the street and start walking and say, ‘This way! Come on!’ He gives me a confused look but without hesitation he follows me, to my shock, without fuss.

We ran and walked and ran and walked…. And with each run I see a difference in Dylan. My silent teen boy has words on our runs, ‘go’ ‘run’ ‘mom’ ‘dog’ ‘done’ ‘home’ and many more. He smiles through every run, and it’s a proud smile, that ‘I’m doing this mom, I’m really doing this and I’m proud mom!’. I am so proud of you too, Dylan. You are a dedicated runner, you take pride in running and in being healthy. As a result of running even his diet has changed. His own body instinctively now craves healthier foods and he is sleeping better and has fewer health issues that once kept Dylan tied down to that darn oversized chair where he often slept away the day. He has lost his chubby belly and is now the perfect weight for his height. Now I no longer fear that this child will grow up sitting in his chair, sleeping, missing life, over weight and unhealthy. Now I sleep very well knowing that he is learning to take care of his body and his health, knowing that I have set him on the right track for an adulthood of appreciating fitness.

Way to go Dylan! Everything is possible!

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3 Responses so far »

  1. 1

    Helen said,

    Wanted to say after reading your story what pride I share in your son’s run. It is so easy to stay inside comfy rather than take the effort to go out. And look how Dylan has improved!

  2. 2

    Carol N, said,

    Hooray for Dylan and his amazing, wonderful mom…what a team!

  3. 3

    kim said,

    I appreciate the determination you both have. What a great story of setting the bar high and pushing through. Congratulations to both you. As a mom of a child with autism, I know it takes determination to make breakthroughs and I know the thrills of success. Enjoy those runs!


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