I have found most parents of children with Autism and Asperger’s will do anything for their child to help them to function, be normal, and happy. Although this example is not that of a person with Autism or Asperger’s it is a powerful one and a good motivator to me. It is the story of the Hoyt’s. Many of you may have heard of this father and son duo, but to me they are the epitome of the love and sacrifice that a parent can have for their child. The son, Rick Hoyt, was born with cerebral palsy and is a quadriplegic. For many people they would look at this at the worst possible thing. Some people might say the same about having a child with Autism or Asperger’s. As we all know we are given challenges for a reason, it may not always be fair, or what we would like, but I believe that these challenges only brings out the best in us if we let them. I know that this story will ring true to most of you and your devotion to your child or family member with Autism or Asperger’s.
When Rick Hoyt was born his parents were given very little hope that he could be or do anything more than just lay in bed, and were told to institutionalize him. His parents did not believe in institutionalizing their son and invested countless hours, extensive amounts of money, and unlimited amounts love to their son. Over time they saw that despite not being able to talk, their son could think and eventually was able to communicate via a special computer they had developed for him. He was articulate and intelligent and knew and understood so much. How sad would it have been if they had just left him locked inside his body with no hope? Somehow, I have a feeling that for many of you the parallels are starting to come into focus.
The Hoyt’s fought long and hard for their son. He finally was able to start to attend school when he was 13 years old and eventually graduated from high school. He also was able to attend college and obtained a college degree Special Education. How amazing! I know that for many people with Autism and Asperger’s the challenges they face in gaining an education or thinking that they might ever go to college feels impossible, but knowing that this man found a way and with his parents love, help, and support it happened brings me so much hope.
In 1977, Rick told his father, Dick Hoyt, he wanted to participate in a 5 mile run to benefit a person who had been paralyzed. His father told him he would push him through the race and they completed it coming in second to last. Running this race was really hard for Dick Hoyt. He had never run a race like this before, but did it for his son. At the end of the race his son told him, “Dad, when I am running, it feels like I am not handicapped!” Since that time this father’s devotion and love has helped his son to realize his dream, something that for Rick on his own would be impossible….to feel normal and not disabled. I hope that my son can feel that way someday about his disability, and to feel like all our work got him there.
Since 1977 Team Hoyt has completed over 1,000 races including marathons, duathons, and triathalons. Six of these have been Ironman competitions, which for me is an amazing feat and the true test of endurance and the human spirit. Dick has pushed, pulled, swam, biked, and given his all (blood, sweat, and tears) to his son. I am sure many of us can see a parallel in the sacrifices we make each day for our own children with Autism and Asperger’s to get them the help they need to reach their potential and to help other’s to see their potential. We may not be running the race in the physical way Dick Hoyt does, but we run our own races each and every day to help our children with their therapies, to learn social skills, and to advocate for their needs.
I have seen Team Hoyt on a few T.V. programs and each time I am brought to tears by this father and son team. If you haven’t had the opportunity to see them, look them up on the internet at www.TeamHoyt.com, or see if you can find info about them on YouTube (especially the specials when the competed in the IronMan races), you will be AMAZED! The most amazing thing is that they are still going strong. Their hope is that they will be able to complete the Boston Marathon this year (April 2011) when Dick is 70 years old….. I wish them all the luck in the world!
As for me, I hope that I have even the smallest amount of the devotion that Dick Hoyt has for his son. I hope I am running the race well for my son. I would do anything to help my son to be happy, have friends, understand social situations, and have whatever successes that are possible for him. I hope one day that my son can see how much we have given for him, how proud we are of him, and that he is proud and thankful for his loving parents.