12-year-old autistic boy finds freedom in running
A severely autistic student at Carmel Valley Middle School has hit his stride on the school’s cross country team.
Caulden Gary, 12, has helped invigorate and inspire the whole team since joining nearly two months ago, coach Lisa Ziemba said.
“The kids have just really rallied around him,” she said. “It’s really cool to see how they’ve supported him.”
The experience has been one in a series of milestones for Caulden and his family. Getting to the point where he could be a part of the team has required a lot of work and dedication, said his mother, Jennifer Darocki.
After developing normally for about 18 months, he suddenly stopped speaking. It was then that his parents found out he had regressive autism, a severe form of the disorder.
“He lost all language and pretty much just sat and rocked,” she said. “This was a kid that they basically told me, ‘You need to put him in a home; he’s never going to function.’”
Autism encompasses a wide spectrum of developmental disorders that affect brain development and communication skills. Severe forms of the disorder can make it difficult or impossible for children to interact with others.
“It’s a very isolating illness, because these kids can’t play with other kids,” Darocki said.
When she found out, Darocki stopped working so she could spend her days helping her son.