Paul (pictured here) is a 25 year old guy who has autism.
Autism has no prejudice. It picks on everyone. It pays no matter to race, color or religion. It pays no mind to wealth or poverty. There is no format. Autism is simply a driving force that places itself within a family, and simply settles in.
And then the work begins. Before you read further, make yourself a promise to watch the 2012 Autism Speaks Walk Video below; watch the families, and witness the diversity of autism. The voice of American Idol Phil Phillips resonates: “Hold on to me as we go. As we roll down this unfamiliar road. Just know you’re not alone”.
Not being alone is what drives Paul Morris, a guy who has a mission. He wants his autism to be understood. He wants to make a difference. What better way to spread the word than through Paul himself.
Even before Paul could speak, he was a “people person”. He was not the child who hid in a corner. He adhered to circles of people dispelling another myth about autism; some autistic children do like to be recognized. It doesn’t make the work any easier, in fact, with Paul it was a difficult task to get his attention.
Paul’s therapists and family members made their daily routine a composite of trying to rope him in and try to get him to comply to verbal commands. It was like trying to harness Jello.
At around 5 years of age Paul got the hang of it. He learned language one day at a time. He entered a private school that concentrated on speech and language. While reciprocal conversation was still slow, he showed progress.
The years passed and one day, at age 9, Paul said “I want to go to school with my brothers and sister’. His family was stumped. The public school system was not ready to embrace Paul; nevertheless, he demanded a try. And t that is when he met Cody.
A fourth grade class was the scene for Paul to enter the typical world. Most of the girls had no idea what to do. The boys were simply” there”. Paul was like a bull in a china shop, looking for a friend. However, he didn’t know how to be a friend and to this day, it is a work in progress. He tries to do the right thing.
Back in that fourth grade class, Cody was a kind and caring young girl, and has grown into a fine young woman with the same tender heart. Sometimes it is a case of just having a good nature; and she has remained Paul’s friend for 16 years.
The best story about Cody is that she paid it forward. When she went to college, she met a wonderful friend named Nicky. Guess what? Nicky befriended Paul as well. During his phone calls with Cody, Nicky became part of the conversation. She embraced Paul’s differences by simply giving him time and attention. A weekly call and an occasional visit not only made Paul’s day; it made his year. Last year, Nicky came to Paul’s birthday brunch. A simple gesture gave him a vote of confidence.
The Autism Speaks Walk 2013 echoed the passion of a crowd of 15,000 people, walking in solidarity and purpose. This Walk is Paul’s Academy Award Day! He thrives on the attention, the recognition while spreading the message that individuals with autism must be acknowledged and appreciated.
The crowd amassed, many to see Paul. Suddenly he bolted like lightening. Walking down the path was Cody and her mother, Nicky and her mother, and a new friend, Diana. They had driven many miles to join Paul on his Walk. Paul’s face lit like sunshine. The message of autism was shared; a sound that broke a barrier.