Kelly Heller is part of the RUN FOR AUTISM team, long with her husband, Christian. From Hudson, Ohio, the couple ran the Cleveland 5K in 2010 and Christian has run several races for OAR since then.
Recently, my son, Cal, learned to tie his own shoes. While not generally considered a monumental accomplishment for a 7-year-old boy, for our family and Cal, it’s the equivalent of the Nobel Prize. Cal has Asperger Syndrome, which causes him to struggle with fine motor skills.
Asperger Syndrome manifests itself in other ways as well. Cal lives in a world where his toy cars need to be lined up and his shoes are constantly on the wrong feet…on purpose to hit pressure points. He puts his clothes on backwards and has a meltdown if his nails need to be clipped.
From the time Cal was small, my husband and I knew something was different when he “backed up” into us to give a hug and had difficulty with simple tasks that many take for granted. Using a spoon, holding a pencil, and peddling a bike have been seemingly impossible tasks. Our suspicions were confirmed when a neurologist gave us the Asperger diagnosis when Cal was 2.
His diagnosis and everything we deal with because of it is minor compared to Cal’s accomplishments. He is a hero to me.
Leaps and Bounds
Cal has seen many therapists and grown by leaps and bounds. I have had the honor of watching him persevere. My husband, Chris, and I are there with him through every challenge and triumph. I have never met a harder worker with a more positive disposition, despite the fact that he has to work harder than others. I have laughed with him and cheered on each success, no matter how big or small. I have also shed tears of frustration with him when he has dressed himself five times and his shirt is still on backwards.
We are constantly learning about this together as a family. Because I am a teacher, one of Cal’s traits that I admire most is his desire to learn and live abundantly. He is always asking questions and has a thirst to learn as much as he can. We learn from him all the time, and I am constantly amazed by his knowledge. He takes scuba diving lessons and has memorized incredible information about sharks and fish.
I do not know where this journey of autism, with its ups and downs, its astonishment and frustration, will lead my family. However, I do know that we will take each step hand in hand with Cal and his positive attitude as our guide…and our shoes will be tied.