I found my place yesterday.

For a long time I’ve been searching for that one special place.  Somewhere where my kids could just “be”.  No judging eyes.  No sideways stares.  They could run and play and laugh and spin and be themselves without any worry or thought about who was around them.

We found that yesterday at Colt State Park in Bristol, RI.

We were there for the Southern New England Walk for Autism Speaks.  Our team of 22 – 13 adults and 9 kids – came together for a cause:  to raise money to support research and awareness for people living with autism spectrum disorder.

What we came away with was so much more.

The one mile loop took us through this magnificent park on a trail that started in a forest and ended along the ocean.  We walked at first as one big group, taking pictures and remarking on the beauty of the day.

We chased after each other’s kids and held their hands along the ocean rocks.   The kids ran and then stopped to pick up seashells.  Our kids could walk beside us.  Hand in hand if they wanted.  Or not.

hand in hand - no complaints!

We stopped when our kids wanted to stop.  We did what they wanted to do.  We were on no one else’s time schedule but our own.

At the halfway point, we were cheered on by some local high school boys.  They gave our kids high fives, handed them each a lei, and told them they were doing a great job.

Our kids high-fived them back, accepted their new treasure, and ran on.  Free.

It was at that moment that I knew I’d found it.

This was the place.

No judgement, no worries.  Safe and secure but free to be themselves.  Jumping, stimming, yelling, running, dancing, spinning, signing, scripting…laughing.  Siblings, parents, uncles, cousins, and friends – all together in one big group watching out for each other.  Having fun.

Dancing to the band

quiet sibling times

so much room to run and play

Just being ourselves.

For me, it quickly became one of the best days I’ve ever had.

We arrived separately :

my friend who came with her two boys just because she cares,

my uncle and cousins and their daughter who where there to support us,

my mother who would do anything for her grandsons,

my friend (my son’s former teacher) who understands our kids better than any person I have ever met, and

my three autism mom friends and their boys …who spent the whole day smiling…

Our team of 22 became a family of one.

The day was no longer about the disorder that can pull our families apart.  This day was about hope, friendship, and creating a family that supports each other no matter what.

I walked that day wearing a pin given to me by one amazing friend.  It was from the Brady Rymer Band. It said “Love Me For Who I Am“.

In this place, our kids – ALL of them – were loved for who they were.

love me for who I am

That gives me a new spring in my step.

I've Got A New Way To Walk

Already planning for next year.

It’s a little bit of strut and a lot of smooth
And a little bit of bouncing fine
My chin is up, my feet don’t stall
When I walk my walk, I walk real tall

I got a new way to walk
(Walk, walk)
I got a new way to walk
(Walk, walk)
I got a new way to walk
And it shows how good I feel ” – I’ve Got A New Way to Walk from Sesame Street (performed by Destiny’s Child)