These talented twins have found solace in running, and the whole family is joining in. The boys’ parents will warm your heart.
Jamie and Alex Schneider have been running since they were fifteen and have run in over 400 races and 26 marathons. For them and their parents, it’s a wonderful activity they can partake in together.
Raising kids with autism
Raising kids with autism isn’t always easy, but parenting adults with autism has proven even harder, says Robyn Schneider, mother of Alex and Jamie, twins aged 27 with severe autism.
“It’s hard, it’s really hard, raising children with autism. You know we deal with some very serious behaviours. Both of our children are seriously affected by autism, they’re low on the spectrum, they’re non-verbal, they both have self-injurious behaviours. They have a lot of anxiety. They struggle every single day and they can’t communicate at all. So, it’s a struggle for them, it’s a struggle for us that leads to an increase in anxiety on their part. And it can be heart-breaking.”
“It was easier when they were younger because they were together; they both went on the bus in the morning, they went to school at 8 o’ clock in the morning, they came home at 3:30 and we had somebody at the house getting them off the bus and stuff like that until we got home, so it was a lot easier back then. I always felt like maybe it’s going to get easier when they get older, but for us I think it got harderand most of the parents will tell you the same thing; as they age out of the systems, it’s just so much harder to get them into programs at 27 years old and services hard to get.”
Robyn and her husband Allan got the diagnosis that their kids were autistic at an early age. But the internet wasn’t as widespread as it is now, and there wasn’t a lot of information, or support to seek out.
“When we first got the diagnosis, I didn’t really know what autism was, I really didn’t know the leveland extent and everything. I just thought, o, okay, they’ll just get some therapy and it’ll be okay; we’ll just do whatever we need to do, we’ll do it and it’ll all get better. Little did I know this was just beyond life changing.”
Bonding whilst running
One of the things the family said they’ve done is expose the boys to a great variety of hobbies and sports at an early age. They’ve tried horseback riding and swimming among other things, but nothing brought the boys as much joy as running did. They’ve run over 400 races and 26 marathons since they started at age fifteen and have gotten better and better.
They boys have coaches and run with their parents; one of the only activities they can do together. Father Allan says;
“It’s one of the few activities I can do with my son one on one. I can’t do normal things that fathers and sons do, so this is a way for us to get out in the outdoors and sort of bond together. There’s not much going on as far as speaking but there’s an unspoken bond going on as we’re running that I don’t get anywhere else with him. It’s one of the only activities I can do with him and he enjoys it so it’s good for our health. It’s good for him so it’s been a win-win as far as that goes."
An inspiration to others
Running has opened up a world for both children as well as parents. They’ve enjoyed it all so much and the health benefits have been great. It’s a release of their energy, it gives them something to focus on; either getting to the finish line or just the act of running. But the running success has stretched further than the family; they’ve been an inspiration for many families dealing with autism. They’ve written and emailed them, thanking them for speaking out about the issues and difficulties that come with raising kids with autism.
“What we’ve gotten back from people in general, not just autism families but runners, and just people out there that have typical children is that they’ve been just so inspired by the boys, they’re just inspired by what they can achieve, not what they can’t achieve and they look at it that way and it kind of reinforces it for us as parents.”
Allen and Robyn have taken these responses and channelled them into raising awareness for families dealing autism, because not every family has two superstar runners in them.
“Our running situation with the boys, they’re pretty well known for their running and we’ve had a lot of press over the years and for our memoir, but from the beginning we always said to ourselves we’re going to be speaking, it’s great about their running and what they’ve achieved and the inspiration involved in that, but their level of autism doesn’t get spoken about very often, and you might hear inspirational things about certain individuals but the hard reality is a lot of kids out there that aren’t doing great things, but the parents still have to live with this difficult issue of raising young kids into adulthood with a very severe level of autism, so it’s a forgotten community really and if we can do anything as far as that goes, we shine a light on that in some fashion, and maybe for funding, maybe for more awareness, you know you hear the best stories about the kids shooting the baskets and doing very well or even my kids running in a race doing very well, but the hard reality is when they come home you have to deal with a lot of different issues and it’s a lot of families that aren’t getting any recognition for that and they have to deal with everyday these problems so we’ve always committed ourselves to speaking out about that and talking about that level of autism which, sometimes it’s not very glamorous and if our notoriety in some way brings help to this community, that’s what we strive to do.” – Allan Schneider.
The family has been lucky that they have a support system who helps them with the boys: their coaches, taking the time to run with them on an almost daily basis and other people helping out with the boys. Without them, they say, their life would have been a lot more difficult.
But as many other families dealing with autism in the United States, they’ve noticed things are getting gradually more difficult. Funding is being cut for programs that help both parents of as well as children with autism. So their advice is to vote;
“For our community, the special needs community, I think we have to get on board and be politically active in some way, research the issues, research the candidates and candidates that have innovative ideas or that support different funding for our kids and families I think you have to get off your seat and vote your interests otherwise nothing’s ever going to change.”