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Less Than a Million Words

Hayden's teachers this year asked parents to write a short essay about their child, "in a million words or less." Here is my submission.

How do you sum up your child in a short essay? Not even a million words would do and yet, maybe only a few are needed. Or even just one.


Hayden is an amazing person who has inspired hundreds, perhaps even thousands, of people. He is fun, witty, and kind. He cares about others and always wants to do his best. He has overcome so much in his life, but can’t see for himself how far he’s come. He only sees how far he has to go. He needs and loves praise from others, and wants desperately to be just like every other kid at school. He’s confused, like every other 7th grader, about his emotions, his changing body, and his future.

Hayden is first and foremost a teenage boy who is special because of who he is. He loves babies and video games, spaghetti and ice cream, big dogs and Garfield, swimming, and his friends. Like anyone, he has…

First Day of 7th Grade

Last night Hayden was very anxious about the start of school. He was worried that his combination lock was too slow, that he didn’t know where to go first (his locker or homeroom), and that he wouldn’t find his classes. Joseph and I told him that there would be lots of teachers there to help, and that he could ask an adult if he wasn’t sure what to do.

I worried that he wouldn’t pay attention on the bus ride home, and would miss his stop. I worried that he would get upset with himself, or feel embarrassed about something. I worried that I hadn’t done enough to prepare him for so many changes at once.

But today Hayden walked into school as a 7th grader. He independently went to the cafeteria to wait for school to start. He asked an adult where to go first (locker, then homeroom). He found his new locker and used the new combination. He shared his new phone number with his friends. He went to all of his classes and as far as I know, had zero issues. He paid attention on the bus and whe…

Independence Day

I wrote this Facebook post while we were on vacation last week: 
Today Hayden truly inspired me. It was a combination of things, but it started with one moment on our bus ride to the park.

When we first boarded the bus to Animal Kingdom, he took a spot behind us. As we’re riding along I hear a bunch of college kids talking, and Hayden is chattering right along with them. I couldn’t tell if he was on-topic or appropriate because it was too loud, but if he wasn’t, no one seemed to mind.

There was a time when this level of independence and social awareness would have been impossible for him. Today he went with the flow and was one of the guys. He rode along without complaint, seemingly indifferent to the noise and crowding; he was just happy to be a chatting it up with strangers he’d just met. He did the same on a ride later in the day as well. 
Sometimes I’m amazed at what he can do and how far he’s come. Today Hayden rode a real roller coaster twice, waited patiently in multiple lines,…

My 'Why'

Yesterday was the big day. I worked for 6 months to organize the Pathways to Hope Autism Conference for local families, and yesterday it all came together.

This was the 6th year for this event. It's the only one of its type in the state, and I believe in the Midwest.

The first year I planned this event, there was just one track of talks, six speakers, no vendors or sponsors. I had never organized an event of this type, and had no idea what I was getting into. That first year I was just doing what I could, and yet it was a huge success! We brought in a nationally renowned doctor from out of state. We had 150 people in the building. We helped many families.

As the event has progressed, I have added features for different reasons. Two tracks, and vendors, to bring in more families. Scholarships for families who can't afford to register. Sponsors, to help cover costs and provide giveaways to attendees. The option to purchase lunch, so that attendees can stay on site and make co…

6th Annual Pathways to Hope Autism Conference

Registration is now open for the 6th annual Pathways to Hope Autism Conference in central Indiana!

Gain new ideas and make new friends. It's an amazing day of learning! This event will explore medical topics often experienced in children with Autism, such as
aggressionsensory issuesallergiesconstipation or diarrheaacid refluxpicky eatingsleep difficultiesfrequent illness If any of these topics apply to your child, please consider attending! Multiple sessions, giveaways, free resources, and vendors!

Visit our Facebook event page for more information:

Register today!

Hayden Is Hope

I’ve been coming to the park with Hayden since he was small. When he was three and still non-verbal, he would enjoy running around on the playground for hours. I would play, too, for a while, then sit nearby and try to read every book I could find on the subject of autism. I’d have to look up after every page, because he tended to walk off after strangers he thought he knew.

Little kids would come up to me and ask why he did the things he did. I would explain that he had autism, and tell them he just needed help learning how to be their friend. They would run off to play with their new friend who did things differently.

He was three years old and he couldn’t tell me what food he wanted to eat, or if he was feeling happy or sad. I had to put pictures of his favorite foods on the fridge, for him to point to, and practice making angry faces so he could learn what emotions looked like.

When he first began to talk, he would say, “the tummy hurts” over and over. He was constantly in pain a…