Photo by Kelly Sullivan/ Peninsula Clarion Emma Updike, Tonja Updike, Emma Updike and Ellyce Woodward work at a craft table during the Autism Walk, Saturday, April 19, at Soldotna Middle School.

Photo by Kelly Sullivan/ Peninsula Clarion Emma Updike, Tonja Updike, Emma Updike and Ellyce Woodward work at a craft table during the Autism Walk, Saturday, April 19, at Soldotna Middle School.

Soldotna autism walk back with a bang

  • By Kelly Sullivan
  • Sunday, April 20, 2014 11:48pm
  • News

Not much walking actually happened during this year’s Soldotna Walk for Autism fundraiser. Running, bouncing and yoga were more common movements exerted by attendees on Saturday at Soldotna Middle School.

In the corner of the “quiet” themed gym, Kate Swaby held the hand of her son Owen as they went through a few poses during a yoga demonstration. Without much warning Owen would twist from his mothers grip, bolt across the gym and jump on a machine with pedals that simulated walking up stairs.

“If I have my flips flops, it’s a problem,” Swaby said smiling. “I have a hard time catching him.”

Owen’s father Keith looked on unfazed. Seconds later Swaby coaxed him back onto the mat to tryout a few more positions.

Swaby said Owen, who is autistic and cannot verbally communicate, tends to have trouble in crowded areas and working with groups of strangers. She said Owen becomes over stimulated in public.

When he’s playing, bending and crouching are easy tasks, but when asked to do a certain move, he freezes up, Swaby said. Practicing yoga may help him improve control over his movements, she said.

Two hours into the autism walk, Owen was still willing to participate in the activities, Swaby said. Owen often has a hard time focusing for periods that long, she said, but having activities run by volunteers who know how to interpret his reactions made a difference, she said.

Susan Mathews, who works at Kenai Kids Therapy in Soldotna, said many families use the autism walk as a place to bring their children where they can comfortably enjoy themselves. She said a common aim for attendees is the desire to raise awareness within the community.

Usually the parents are well versed in the actions of their children, but publicly people often react with shock and confusion, Mathews said. Helping people understand the difference between a kid acting out and a child dealing with Autism is important to discern, she said.

“You can frequently tell by the parent’s face,” Mathews said. “Their look says, ‘I am handling my kid. It’s OK don’t worry’.”

Holding an autism walk locally is invaluable, said volunteer Zita Carrasco, who manned the sensory room for walkers if they became over stimulated and needed a break. It makes it so much harder if families have to travel all the way to Anchorage, she said.

Tonja Updike, local spokeswoman for the Autism Society of Alaska, and Jerri Braun, organized the walk. The pair revived the event after a three-year hiatus. Updike had headed the first few events, but such an undertaking was overwhelming on her own, she said. Having Braun organizing as well made it doable again.

“It was my idea to bring it back with a bang,” Braun said. She said many community members told her they dearly missed the event.

This year Braun and Updike added a number of new activities to the program, including carnival games, yoga, cake walks, ring toss, a bounce house and optional sensory stations around the walking course, where people can pause and experience similar physical sensations of someone with autism.

“Nothing like this has been done in the state,” Updike said.

While recent research on the autism spectrum has provided some new insight into the number of people affected by the neurodevelopment disorders, the focus of the walk is to provide people with education on the actual characteristics, Updike said.

Living in a community that doesn’t have much understanding for people with autism can feel very isolating, Updike said. So much of the daily experience with autism can be negative; the event is a full day about seeing the positives, she said.

The 2014 walk raised $4433.50 from early cash donations, and the close to 100 attendees, Updike said.

Knowledge can result in compassion and understanding, she said.

 

Kelly Sullivan can be reached at Kelly.Sullivan@peninsulaclarion.com

 

 

 

 

More in News

Nate Rochon cleans fish after dipnetting in the Kasilof River, on June 25, 2019, in Kasilof, Alaska. (Photo by Victoria Petersen/Peninsula Clarion)
King closures continue; Kasilof dipnet opens Saturday

The early-run Kenai River king sport fishery remains closed, and fishing for kings of any size is prohibited

An "Al Gross for Congress" sign sits near the driveway to Gross’ home in Anchorage, Alaska, on Tuesday, June 21, 2022, after he announced plans to withdraw from the U.S. House race. Gross has given little explanation in two statements for why he is ending his campaign, and a woman who answered the door at the Gross home asked a reporter to leave the property. (AP Photo/Mark Thiessen)
Alaska judge rules Sweeney won’t advance to special election

JUNEAU — A state court judge ruled Friday that Alaska elections officials… Continue reading

Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion 
Soldotna City Manager Stephanie Queen listens to a presentation from Alaska Communications during a meeting of the Soldotna City Council on Wednesday, March 9, 2022 in Soldotna, Alaska.
ACS pilots fiber program in certain peninsula neighborhoods

The fiber to the home service will make available the fastest internet home speeds on the peninsula

Nurse Tracy Silta draws a dose of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine at the walk-in clinic at the intersection of the Kenai Spur and Sterling Highways in Soldotna, Alaska on Wednesday, June 9, 2021. COVID-19 vaccines for kids younger than 5 years old are now approved by both the Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (Camille Botello / Peninsula Clarion)
COVID shots for kids under 5 available at public health

Roughly 18 million kids nationwide will now be eligible to get their COVID vaccines.

Megan Mitchell, left, and Nick McCoy protest the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision overturning of Roe v. Wade at the intersection of the Kenai Spur and Sterling highways on Friday, June 24, 2022 in Soldotna, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
‘Heartbroken’, ‘Betrayed’: Alaskans react to Roe decision

Supreme Court decision ends nearly 50 years of legally protected access to abortion

Demonstrators gather outside the Supreme Court in Washington, Friday, June 24, 2022. The Supreme Court has ended constitutional protections for abortion that had been in place nearly 50 years, a decision by its conservative majority to overturn the court’s landmark abortion cases. (AP Photo / Jose Luis Magana)
Alaskans react to Supreme Court overturn of Roe v. Wade

The Supreme Court has ended constitutional protections for abortion.

Tara Sweeney, a Republican seeking the sole U.S. House seat in Alaska, speaks during a forum for candidates, May 12, 2022, in Anchorage, Alaska. (AP Photo/ Mark Thiessen)
Lawsuit says Sweeney should advance in Alaska US House race

The lawsuit says the fifth-place finisher in the special primary, Republican Tara Sweeney, should be put on the August special election ballot

Gubernatorial candidate Bill Walker stands in the Peninsula Clarion office on Friday, May 6, 2022, in Kenai, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Alaska AFL-CIO endorses Walker, Murkowski, Peltola

The AFL-CIO is Alaska’s largest labor organization and has historically been one of its most powerful political groups

A portion of a draft letter from Jeffrey Clark is displayed as the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol continues to reveal its findings of a year-long investigation, at the Capitol in Washington, Thursday, June 23, 2022. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)
Federal agents search Trump-era official’s home, subpoena GOP leaders

Authorities on Wednesday searched the Virginia home of Jeffrey Clark

Most Read