The knower of nothing

April 11, 2017

It’s autism awareness month. Are you aware of that?

To build awareness we’ll be fed an endless stream of stereotypes and the myth of a linear autism spectrum by healthcare professionals who should know better and by the media which is clueless. In fact the autism spectrum is much more complicated than can be depicted by a bar chart.

20170314170918129Social media is all lit up with the usual memes and inspiring stories about exceptional autistic kids who are piano prodigies or math geniuses or incredible artists. The key word here is “exceptional,” which does not mean better than the others but is more accurately defined as not typical. One brave mom, so annoyed by all this, was inspired to write a piece called, “My son has the kind of autism no one talks about.”

I get this — we hear too much about the rare kids who are gifted and not nearly enough about the real challenges most autistic kids and parents face. The truth is that most autistic kids, including mine, aren’t exceptional — a high percentage are actually non-verbal. Consider that 70 percent of them will never be able to care for themselves as adults.

In my own writings and talks I have tried my best to maintain a positive outlook while also giving people some eye-openers to reality, and recognizing that my son who turns 13 next week is not like any other autistic child. Yes, he sings with perfect pitch, is a Minecraft genius and runs on the school track and cross-country teams, but he also often has severe behavioral issues.

For example, after causing a major disruption at school during standardized testing recently Harrison acted out violently toward one of the school staff and was escorted to my car by two sheriff’s deputies. I was alarmed and appalled by how out of control his behavior was at school that day, but it is really no different than what I often experience at home.

For autism awareness month, I wrote a cover article for Colorado Country Life magazine about our adventures and challenges on the school running teams. The magazine mails out 227,000 copies throughout the state. In this piece I attempt to balance the realities of failures vs. triumphs. I think both are equally important. In this realm of what I call “Deep Sport” the real victory is in the alchemy of lessons of resilience, patience, humility and empathy into something greater and lasting.

Also this month I was invited by the Raton New Mexico school district to speak at an autism awareness event at the high school there. It was attended by about 60 educators, therapists, parents, students and the school’s baseball team.

One of the messages I tried to convey was that all people, including autistic people, are unique individuals. One person in the audience who read about us in The New York Times asked if I provided some sort of animal therapy here at the ranch. She was not the first person who had this misconception from the article.

I told her no, that I had no answers to anything beyond my own experience with one autistic kid, my own son. I said what I have said about this before — if I had any sort of answers to the autism question there would be a line of parents at my ranch gate and in fact there is nobody there. In my experience this is also true of professionals. If any doctor, psychiatrist, therapist, educator, nutritionist or exorcist had a cure, there would be a long line of people at their office.

To borrow from my friend the mountain yogi Steve Ilg: “I am the knower of nothing.”

Yes, I go to great lengths to involve Harrison in outdoor activities, animals and sports. As much as I would like to believe these experiences are helping him, I have no way of knowing if this is actually true. This isn’t exactly a double-blind study. It’s just what I do. What we do.

This is all I have to share.

After the talk, one of the therapists thanked me, and said that she appreciated my input that there is no concrete solution or specific correct response for any given child in any given situation. “People are always looking to us for the answers, and we don’t really have them.”

Apparently she is doing as a professional what I do as an autism parent — making it up as I go along.

On the way home from Raton we stopped at a store in Trinidad to pick up a few grocery items. During this short shopping excursion I had several problems with Harrison inside the store as he demanded I purchase various junk-food items, clocks, paper plates, a fan, an Amazon gift card. Each time I told him no it was greeted with an outburst and argument.

At the checkout the couple ahead of us kept looking our way as I tried to manage Harrison, a shopping cart and getting the items onto the conveyor. Finally the woman turned and said, “Excuse me, but could you answer a question?”

I said sure, wondering what I was getting myself into.

“Are you the two who were in the San Isabel electric co-op magazine this month?”

Surprised by this seemingly meaningful coincidence, I told her, yes, that’s us.

“I thought so,” she said. “Thank you for writing that. It was very inspiring.”

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A matter of control

March 9, 2017

 

Sometimes we try very hard to control things and it only makes matters worse. This is particularly true when working with beings who have a streak of wildness running through them, like myself for example.

This has recently been drawn more tightly into focus with three wild souls I am working with — Zip, Jimi and my son Harrison.

Zip is an Australian Cattle Dog. These dogs are descendant from wild dingos from Down Under that were bred with English herding dogs to become what we know today as “heelers.” We typically keep Zip on a leash because he tends to run wild when off it. However, the more we keep him leashed, the more he wants to run free.

Then there’s Jimi, a burro foaled in captivity from a wild Bureau of Land Management jenny. He’s larger than most burros and spent a lot of his early existence in the open at a mustang sanctuary, and was initially “handied” in a round pen. Now he views any open range as an opportunity to bolt.

And then there is my son Harrison, The Blur. He’s my son, so the wildness is built-in. But since he’s neurodiverse — he has autism — we’ve had to keep a very close eye on him since he was very young. Since his behaviors can be quite random and range wildly, and it’s difficult to know what’s going to happen next in any given situation, we tend to hover over him, and also help him maybe too much with simple tasks.

With all three we’ve set up situations in which we’ve taught them what they can do by showing them what they can’t do. In our minds, it’s all about safety, but it’s also about control, which is really an illusion — we really don’t have as much control over things as we think we do, if any at all, and eventually the dog is going to get loose, you need the burro to be dependable out in the open, the Blur is going to be in social situations on his own, or need to complete his school work.

Here are some tips that I’ve learned from others and from my own experiences. They may be helpful in working with dogs, burros and people:

  • You need to have more time than they do. Get yourself in a hurry or a frantic rush and you are setting yourself up for disastrous results. Plan ahead and start early if you absolutely have to be somewhere on time (I’ve been known to start the night before). Or be prepared to be late — I often stop, take a deep breath, and drive Harrison in to school late if I feel his getting ready on his own is more important than being there on time. Is that time on the clock just another illusion
  • Make it easy to do the right thing and hard to do the wrong thing. For example, in the video above you can see Jimi trotting along a road with no fenceline on the right. The rope is clipped to the halter not the bridle and he’s traveling in a straight line. However, to get this to happen, he is pointed toward home, it’s on an uphill where he can’t easily get away, and there is a very steep sidehill on the right. It’s easier for him to just run home in a straight line at my pace than it is to turn and bolt up that hill.
  • Find some way to make them think the correct behavior was their own idea. It’s difficult to get Harrison to do his school work, but he is very much fascinated with clocks these days. The other night he came home with a writing assignment about clocks, a stroke of genius on behalf of the staff at school. He did this work without any encouragement — even his handwriting was neat.
  • Positive reinforcement goes a long way. I’ve been “rewiring” Zip to run off-leash. For this, I take him over on the trails on nearby Bear Basin Ranch which is a safe environment.When I let him off the leash, I keep him in “referencing distance by sometimes whistling. Occasionally, I stop and call him. When he returns I pat his head and scratch behind the ears and praise him. This way he gets the idea that coming when called does not mean he is automatically back on the leash. He’s still a long way from running off-leash out on the county road but this goes back to the long-term version of our first point about having more time than they do. I’ve also been experimenting with taking him along with one of the burros. Having a burro along appeals to his stock dog instinct and makes him want to stay close. 

In fact, yesterday when returning from the ranch I removed the lead rope from another donkey I’m training, Teddy, and used it as a leash for Zip. Then I let Teddy run free back here while Zip herded him along on the line. Advanced animal training — they both seemed to think it was their idea.

For more insights about the parallels between helping animals and autistic people achieve triumph in life, check out my book, Full Tilt Boogie.

 

‘What kind of autism do I have?’

March 6, 2017

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Recently while we were out on a run, Harrison asked me, “Hey, what kind of autism do I have?”

I tend to zero in on questions like this as I find his developing self-awareness and the perception of his own neurodiversity fascinating. It was like a few months ago when he asked, “At what age is autism put into the brain?” (Think about that one.)

I was pretty sure what he meant by asking what kind of autism he has, but just to be sure I quizzed him about what he meant by that. He clarified by asking if his autism is mild, moderate or severe.

I then explained as best as I could that it’s really not that simple. While we tend to think of the autism spectrum as a linear shaded bar chart with mild on one end, moderate in the middle, and severe on the other end, that’s a really overly simplistic view.

Truly the autism spectrum is not linear but more accurately depicted as circular. On the outside of this circle are certain characteristics like language and motor skills, sensory perception, and executive function. Social skills and awareness are other variables with autistic people. All people are more or less functional in each of these traits. The best diagram I’ve seen is cartoonist Rebecca Burgess’ illustration.

And here’s the really complicated part — all of these traits affect each other and are dynamic, changing from moment to moment.

So I explained to Harrison that in some ways and at some times he can be mildly autistic and at some times and in some situations he can seem severely autistic. For example, his executive cognitive function, which governs impulse control, sometimes is severely lacking.

More complex, and difficult to understand, is how deficits in one area can produce deficits in others short-term. For example, impulse control issues that lead to a tantrum can directly affect motor skills. A good example of this occurred this past weekend when we participated in a two-part photo shoot for a magazine cover to accompany an article I’ve written about his participation in cross-country and track.

The first sequence of photos was an evening shoot. Harrison was thrilled to participate, was joyful and ran beautifully for the photographer, back and forth with great form for about an hour.

He set his alarm for the next morning’s session but when it went off it was louder than he expected (perception) and this startled him (sensory) which sparked an epic tantrum (executive function and impulse control) which ultimately resulted in poor running form for the photo shoot (motor skills).

That’s the type of autism Harrison had that morning. A totally different “spectrum” from what he and I experienced the previous evening.

Lems Boulder Boots rock

March 1, 2017

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I used to write outdoor gear and clothing reviews for fancy magazines like Outside, Snow Country and Rocky Mountain Sports. I’m no longer in the business of reviewing outdoor products and clothes even though it was fun and somewhat lucrative in terms of cash and swag, but I recently made a purchase that inspired a few words.

The purchase was a pair of Lems Boulder Boots. I chose the Timber color (green).

Until now I have been unable to find any sort of casual shoe that is comfortable, health-promoting and suits my lifestyle. I have weird feet. I’ve always had weird feet. What I found with the Boulder Boot is they let my feet do what they are designed to do, almost like being barefoot. This builds foot and ankle strength and promotes health throughout the body.

These boots are made with a big toebox that accommodates my wide forefoot and spread-out toes. They are also “zero-drop” which means there is no difference in height from the heel to the front of the shoe. However, they have enough outsole protection that rocks don’t poke through to the bottoms of my feet. They also are very flexible and in fact are advertised as “packable.”

My size is 47 (U.S. 13) yet they don’t appear huge when I wear them with jeans.

I live in the mountains, manage livestock, have a neurodiverse kid in school (which means I spend a lot of time in the school). I often find myself in situations not quite right for my Muck boots and not quite right for leather or dress shoes either. For example, I might meet with staff at the school, go to guitar lessons with my son, take a short hike, then tiptoe through manure to turn a horse out on the way home and wade through snow to throw hay to my burros.

I’ve worn the Boulder Boots hiking on the trails around here. I’ve worn them to business meetings. I even wore them while speaking about autism and endurance for life to a casual audience of about 50 people at The Back Room in Westcliffe recently.

These shoes are right in step with all that. You won’t likely see these boots reviewed in any fancy magazines which is why I mentioned them here. The only issue I have with the Boulder Boot is I now want a second pair. Maybe blue this time . . . Or black . . . Or maybe the leather model.

Why we don’t hide

February 22, 2017

Any trip with Harrison out into the public domain — like the grocery store, for example —  is likely to turn into an adventure in neurodiversity. I view these sometimes uncomfortable experiences as almost a civic duty in the effort to educate the public about autism.

On one recent excursion to the Natural Grocers in Pueblo, a worker handed him a remote control for a giant inflatable flying fish. Thankfully, no glass containers were knocked off top shelves, and, even more remarkable, he did not protest when asked to give the remote back.15994477_1570578012958311_1822377083209106557_o

Another Sunday afternoon visit to the same store provided a much more thought-provoking experience. It was crowded and I was distractedly stuffing produce into sacks while also doing my best to keep my eyes on Harrison. Suddenly I saw him zeroing in on a girl, probably about his own age. He looked over at me and said, “Is it Lilly?”

Lilly is a girl he met at respite care and is confined to a wheelchair with cerebral palsy. She has a habit of biting people, but she has never bitten Harrison.

This girl actually looked a little like Lilly but was clearly walking on her own. I told him, no, that’s not Lilly, but before I was done replying he had walked right up to the girl’s father and asked very loudly, “Is she severely autistic?”

This all happened so quickly I didn’t even have time to drop the vegetables in the cart and intervene.

The dad turned with a huge beaming smile and said, “Why, yes, she is!”

The girl was sort of hiding behind her dad, and I wondered if she were shying from Harrison or from the social situation. It seemed the entire store was now an audience to this strange interaction between two children on the autism spectrum, which I view as circular and multi-dimensional rather than linear.

Next Harrison blurted out. “Does she talk?”

“No, not a word!” said the dad, still smiling. I thought he handled the entire episode quite kindly and with a good sense of humor. I took note that he was wearing T-shirt emblazoned with what appeared to be a marijuana leaf.

The produce section seemed strangely silent, as if all the other shoppers were uncomfortable with this exchange. One woman who previously seemed to be giving me unkind glances now had a look of horror on her face, like she suddenly realized Harrison wasn’t just a spoiled brat and she didn’t know how to process any of what was happening. I’m sure she just was there for last-minute goodies before the big game and the thought of actually having to think was a huge inconvenience.

I don’t mean to be rude, but I know I push the comfort zone with a lot of people when I bring Harrison out, just as I also push my own. I view this as a good thing — people should get rocked out of their sheltered existences every now and then at stores, restaurants, coffee shops, wherever. This is part of the reason I don’t hide Harrison from society — it does nobody any good to pretend kids like him don’t exist, or to keep them locked up in home arrest.

However, one thing did bother me about this exchange — I didn’t know how this little girl felt about Harrison so loudly drawing attention to her in a public place. I recalled flashbacks of other similar social awareness mishaps. In fact he seems to have radar for anyone who is different . . . Harrison asking a woman how she lost her leg . . . Harrison asking a little person why she was so small . . . Harrison asking a local woman about her tracheotomy . . . Harrison asking an uncle if he were pregnant (actually funny) . . . 

By far the worst of these was at one of his cross-country meets this past fall when he zoomed in on a young girl’s prosthetic foot, a scene described in more detail in my book Endurance and Selected Essays on Autism, Neurodiversity and Deep Sport. Once again this happened so fast that it was over before I could assess what was even going on. Harrison asked about her foot in a less-than-delicate manner, and the girl clearly interpreted it as teasing and was upset. I felt awful.

But this was much different than this most recent episode at Natural Grocers as this time the girl was also autistic. Obviously Harrison knows he is autistic, and has no problem himself standing out from the crowd or being different. He really does not much care what other people think.

I wondered about this little girl. Was she embarrassed? Did she feel put on the spot?

Should I feel badly about this, or was this merely collateral damage in my personal crusade to raise awareness about autism and neurodiversity?

Or was her social awareness more like Harrison’s?

Of course I used this as a “teachable moment” to explain to Harrison that when he notices something different about a person it’s not polite to bring it up or ask about it in a public situation. That’s about all I could do.

Sharing these experiences in neurodiversity with the general public really is a civic duty, and also helpful in the social development of a child with autism.

It’s also risky business when you care about other people’s feelings. Another precarious step on this journey that has no tour guide or topo map.

Extreme Support for Lifetime Athletes

February 17, 2017
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Finishing the Hardscrabble Mountain Trail Run in 2016. (photo by Kate Spinelli)

And now a word about my sponsor . . .

Many of you know I am an athlete-representative for Endurance Alchemy Lab. Our motto is “Extreme support for lifetime athletes.”

I first became involved with Endurance Alchemy Lab when I injured my shoulder badly in 2013. In fact my entire left arm was incapacitated for several weeks. Through the use of the Piñon-Arnica Endurance Cream in conjunction with other therapies, I regained full use of my arm and shoulder and am back to 10 pullups!

In addition, I use the Clear Mind Star Drops to maintain focus and alleviate nervousness prior to athletic events, and also before talks I give about neurodiversity, autism parenting and Endurance for Life.

Working with founder Peter May, we’ve also developed a variation of Clear Mind drops to help support children with autism, ADHD, sensory integration disorders, Tourette’s Syndrome and other neurodiversities. We call this product Neurodiversity Drops.

When I was hit by a car back in December, the products were central to my healing. The SUV actually stopped on the bridge of my right foot. Every professional I’ve spoken to has said it is virtually inconceivable that nothing in my foot was broken. I was able to apply the Piñon-Arnica Endurance Soak within a few hours of the accident, and then used the Piñon Pine Special Balm and Pinõn Arnica Cream to facilitate the healing process. I was hiking the next day and back to running in two days.

If you are a massage therapist, meridian therapist, applied kinesiologist, chiropractor, or other natural healthcare professional, please contact me for samples and information about using these products with your clients.

We also offer coaching, camps, and sound-therapy journeys by request.

To order any of the products check out the website www.endurancealchemy.com. Be sure to mention that you heard about the products from me. Or email me at jackassontherun@gmail.com for more information or to order through me.

‘Awake’

January 21, 2017

It had been a relatively rough week for Harrison at school back in early December. The short weeks of school sandwiched between a 10-day break for Thanksgiving and 17-day holiday vacation are difficult for him to process, plus there were some other adjustments being made to his academic program due to his repeated disruptive outbursts in class. The biggest challenge for his neurodiverse brain is impulse control.

donrichmondshowI wanted to do something to help him get back on track. That’s when I saw Don Richmond was playing a show at the SteamPlant on a Thursday evening which is the last day of the school week here. Coincidentally, it also happened to be the day we appeared in Christopher McDougall’s “Well” column in the New York Times.

I first saw Don perform at the Taos Plaza, and then again in a show at the Center for Inner Peace in Pueblo.

Over the years a couple of Don’s CDs have found their way into various of my playlists, particularly his album “Like Lazarus.” Among other things Don has won the Governor’s Award for Creative Leadership in the state of Colorado. I could go on and on about Don but you’ll find out much more about him here.

Back to Harrison, whom I sometimes call “The Blur,” a nickname explained in my book, Endurance. He loves music. I thought if he could keep it together for a day at school, perhaps I would surprise him with a trip to Salida for Don’s concert. That day, I stayed in contact with his aide Rebekah throughout the day, explaining that I wanted to reward him for a good day but not place any pressure on him because he tends to obsess on such things — a minor slip can quickly escalate to a major meltdown if he thinks he lost the prize.

The risks for me were not minor. It’s a 1 hour and 20 minute drive each way to Salida. The trip would mean dinner out at a restaurant. The price of the show for was not an insignificant amount. Plus, I knew if he had an issue during the show I would have to remove him from the theater.

After school I learned he’d had one minor slip-up just before the bell but Rebekah said she thought he’d had a good enough day to have earned the surprise.

I sat him down in the resource room and told him what I had in mind, and that he would have to agree to certain behaviors right now if we were to go to the show. This included being quiet in the car for the drive, proper manners and behaviors at the restaurant, and no disruptions during the show.

He agreed to all these conditions, so away we drove into the early December sunset toward Salida.

We went for dinner at Amica’s. Contrary to conventional wisdom,  a fairly noisy and busy restaurant environment is actually a better place to take Harrison than a quiet one. It’s easier for us to blend in and if he makes noise or has some other issue it’s not as apparent. My friend Brandy was our server and she is always so incredibly kind. Harrison was perfect in the restaurant, and Brandy even allowed him to help her make a sundae for dessert.

After that, we headed on over to the SteamPlant. It was a chilly night outside and as we approached the doors he took off at a run, excited to get to the show.

A woman at the front door heard his footsteps and stopped to hold the door for him. I was close behind, walking quickly. As The Blur ran up to the door she looked at him. Then she looked up at me. There was a look on her face as if she had just seen something that doesn’t really exist, a fiction that had suddenly come to life.

“Wait . . . I . . . know who he is,” she said smiling. “I recognize you guys . . . I read about you in the New York Times today.”

I felt sort of embarrassed at this random notoriety and just smiled and muttered something like, “Yep, that’s us!”

Inside I quickly realized Harrison was not just the only autistic child at the show. He was the only kid there. Period. I saw my publisher Mike Rosso from Colorado Central magazine and he suggested we check out the side-balcony seating, which turned out to be a really great tip.

We climbed up the stairs, found the little balcony completely open and took our seats. At last the show began, and Harrison began singing along right away. After a few tunes, local musician Bruce Hayes joined Don on the stage, accompanying on the mandolin. It was clear Harrison had “cataloged” all of Don’s songs — he knew not only the lyrics but also which album each song was on. Except for singing out a bit loudly and also some minor throat-clearing due to some sort of sinus issue he was having he was behaving perfectly. I was glad we were in that little balcony so as not to disturb the other concertgoers.

At intermission, I took Harrison down to the stage and introduced him to Don. The Blur was thrilled, and since he had a full catalog of Don’s songs right there in his head he requested two that Don had not yet played. Don replied that one of those two songs, “Me and Everybody I Know” already was on his setlist and he would try to play the other request, “Awake,” if he had time to fit it in.

I saw the potential train wreck in the making right away. So after we got back into our seats, I explained to Harrison once again the rules we’d agreed to and that Don would do his best to play both songs, and for sure would play one, but that he could “deal” if Don didn’t play both.

The concert began again. At some point Bruce again accompanied Don, and then another fine regional musician, Tom Dussain, joined the show. Harrison was thrilled when they played “Me and Everybody I Know,” and then the countdown began. I could feel the angst building in the chair next to me, and there were some minor exclamations as the show wound down and none of the final songs were “Awake.”

Of course none of this was Don’s fault — he wasn’t there to play requests and had no idea the obsessive nature of Harrison’s mind.

As the show ended, Harrison jumped up from his chair, grabbed his jacket and determinedly headed for the stage.

I was quick after him and was able to divert him at the bottom of the steps. My attempts to block him from getting to Don quickly turned to a bit of a wrestling match as I tried to guide him toward the exit, narrowly missing bumping into an elderly woman with a walker during this fracas. In the hallway leading out to the lobby I literally had to restrain Harrison, and a woman walking past asked, “Is everything OK here?”

I replied that “No, it’s not but we’ll get through this.”

Right then the man walking with her, I’n guessing her husband, said, “Yes, everything is fine.”

Then she asked him, “How do you know that?” as they walked away.

I was too concerned with getting Harrison out of the SteamPlant to worry right then about what anyone else thought of the situation, but I am sure it does appear odd to some people to see a grown man wrestling a 12-year-old kid out of a theater, and they probably don’t know what to think or do.

Once outside The Blur took off running down the sidewalk to the car. I followed behind. It was a cold night and I remember sitting down in my seat and focusing on slowing my heart rate before slowly driving away. Not a word was said the entire drive home. I reflected upon how our exit was so much different than our entrance.

All the way down the Arkansas River canyon I stewed over my mind’s story about how Harrison had managed to “ruin” an otherwise perfect evening. Why did I even try to take him to something like this? What was I thinking? I wrestled with my own questions about how I had handled the situation after the show, and how I had responded to the woman asking if everything was OK.

About at Cotopaxi, as I turned from U.S. 50 to the winding road that takes us back up to the Wet Mountain Valley, I suddenly had an epiphany. I remembered the good moments from the evening. I remembered Brandy smiling as Harrison helped with dessert. I remembered the woman’s smile at the Steam Plant door when she recognized him from the New York Times. I remembered realizing Harrison had memorized entire albums. I remembered Don kindly reaching out to shake his hand. Like the unsung song, I was suddenly “Awake.”

The truth was Harrison had not wrecked the entire evening. He’d merely had an episode that made for a few uncomfortable moments at the end. I took him there because I am his father and I want him to have great experiences as a child. He did not totally disrupt the show. Nobody got hurt. 

Furthermore, I handled the situation as best as I could under the circumstances, and nobody was questioning this other than my own mind. As for the woman’s question about everything being OK, I appreciate her concern and am sorry that I could not produce the words to adequately explain at that time with my arms and mind so full what was actually going on there.

What I should have said is this: “Yes, everything is just fine here. We’ll be just fine.”

More stories about my adventures with Harrison can be found in my books Full Tilt Boogie and Endurance

Of Pools and Dunes and Bullfrogs

July 1, 2016

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To borrow just slightly from the writer Thomas McGuane, camping in your own backyard becomes with time, if you love camping, less and less expeditionary. When summer vacation hit, the camp stove seemed more like a campfire than it ever had before, and the Suzuki hatchback more like a pack-burro.

In this case the back yard was the San Luis Valley. I’d promised my son Harrison a trip to the Hooper Pool (as it’s known by locals) and the nearby Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve as a reward for his outstanding finish at the Hardscrabble Mountain Trail Run, which I help organize. He placed third in his age group, and as far as I know was the only kid with autism in the race.

So one day we packed sleeping bags, pads, tents, cook kit and food for an overnight father-son excursion . . . Read the rest.

Patience, humility and endurance

June 21, 2016

IMG_0228 (3)For Father’s Day, Jill Rothenberg wrote this piece for the online magazine Narrative.ly about the parallels I’ve found between training for and competing at the sport of pack-burro racing and raising an autistic child. It’s all about patience, humility and endurance. Go here: http://narrative.ly/he-runs-rocky-mountain-marathons-with-a-donkey-it-was-the-perfect-preparation-for-being-a-dad/

Endurance

June 16, 2016

Last fall when my neurodiverse son Harrison was running on his middle school cross-country team I began writing essays about our roller coaster of experiences and emotions. Some of these became columns for Colorado Central magazine and others I stashed away, or were parts of emails and other correspondences to family and friends.endurancecover

At some point I began to see a common thread of community, compassion and inclusion, and began to think in terms of combining these essays into a longer story. This long essay eventually became a short book I called Endurance — A season in cross-country with my autistic son.

At first I viewed the short book as an interesting experiment in an age of shrinking attention spans. It seemed hardly worthy of paper and ink, and so I initially published it as a kindle ebook. However, I immediately began to get requests for hard copies, so decided to publish a limited-edition run, and released it recently during an opening at The Brookwood Gallery in Westcliffe.

As an indie publisher I’ve been debating how to best distribute this short book. Because of its size, price point and sales margins, I’ve decided for now to offer it direct to my readers rather than through Amazon and other mass outlets. If you’d like a copy please send $10 to:

Hal Walter, 307 Centennial Dr., Westcliffe, CO 81252

You also can pay by paypal (which accepts credit cards) using “send money” to jackassontherun@gmail.com.

Price includes shipping, and of course be sure to include your address.

The book is also available, along with my other book Full Tilt Boogie — A journey into autism, fatherhood and an epic test of man and beast, in two regional retail outlets — The Book Haven in Salida, and The Village Shop in Westcliffe.

Thank you for supporting my writing and indie publishing.