Walk surpasses hopes

by Jim Boyle
Nearly 200 people turned out for Spectrum High School’s first Way2Go Walk for Autism, and in the process the school will be cutting a check for about $1,400 for the Autism Society of Minnesota (AuSM).

Before the walk started, those in attendance heard from Spectrum staff members Kellie Blanchard, Karin Ness and Sean Ryther; Spectrum student Brett Henkemeyer, who has a form of autism called Asperger syndrome; and Jenette Johnson of AuSM.

Spectrum High School student Brett Henkemeyer spoke about having an autism spectrum disorder.

“It was definitely a complete success,” Henkemeyer said after the event. “More people came than anyone expected.”

Another gauge of success is the first-year event attracted more people than the first-time Active Youth Day put on by Spectrum students, which is now heading into its third year.

Some of Henkemeyer’s goals is to see children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) break through the barriers people with ASD face and help them be accepting of their disorder. He knows what it can be like, of course, as he has a milder form of autism called Asperger syndrome.

“I would like to see fewer struggles for kids with autism,” the high school sophomore said.

He encouraged those with the disorder at the walk to let people know they have autism to take the mystery out of why they respond to the world differently than most kids. He compared those who hide their disorder to someone on a team who hides the disorder from their coach or teammates, saying the misunderstandings would be numerous.

They might wonder:
•Why aren’t you running faster?
•Why are you crabby?

“It’s just not fair to others,” he told the crowd. “Wouldn’t you want to know if you were the coach or a teammate or a friend?”

The Autism Society of Minnesota is an organization of families, educators, care givers and professionals committed to supporting individuals with ASD. The disorder now effects one in every 110 children.

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