“He’s the same member of our community as the next. Why can’t he come out and do that?” Jennifer said. “I don’t care if you look at Kyle because he’s one of the cutest kids you’ll ever see. So please do look at him, but don’t stare at him and say bad things.”
It’s the lack of awareness that lead Lori Bigwood, of Camanche, and her sister Lacey Huling, of Clinton, to start the Strides for Clinton County Autism walk in 2011. Lacey’s son, 8-year-old Dalton, was originally diagnosed with autism when he was a little less than 3 years old.
“I had a meltdown for about 20 minutes when I found out. Then I said, ‘OK. It’s time to put on the big girl pants and deal with this,’” Lacey said.
Now doctors have revised their diagnosis to attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder and asperger syndrome. The latter is often considered a high functioning form of autism. Through therapy at Comprehensive Rehab in Clinton, Dalton’s speech took off and he is now in a regular classroom at Whittier Elementary School.
Dalton still gets overstimulated on occasion and has to be pulled out of class, but he is more under control than he used to be, Lacey said. Even with his high-functioning form of autism, Lacey still feels there’s a misunderstanding about her son’s condition.
“A lot of people don’t get it,” Lacey said. “I think unless you live with it, you don’t get it.”
The sisters were searching for an autism walk or race to participate in close to home. When their search came up empty-handed they opted to take matters into their own hands. After only two races, the pair has raised more than $30,000, which they have donated to area schools’ special education programs and the Quad-City Autism Center.