I was feeling guilty this afternoon because Lucas was getting waaay too much screen time while I tried to squeeze in some work (He would argue with my definition of “too much,” to be sure!)

So, I shut down the computer and suggested to Lucas that we do a little exercise. His unsaid but clear reaction was part, “Seriously?” and part, “Who are you, again, and why should I listen to you?” He’s autistic, but he’s also all teenager.

But I persisted. I finally got Lucas to grudgingly acquiesce. Progress.

Exercise is an important part of our family’s life. And you’d think that – as someone who loves fitness and is starting a company dedicated to helping neurodiverse people and their families have access to great people, programming and places adapted to their fitness needs, that making it a priority – and a reality – for my own son would be a no-brainer.

Unfortunately, it’s not. Over the last year and a half, I’ve spoken with and surveyed a ton of people, and the fact is that there are a lot of challenges and barriers to creating a healthy lifestyle for neurodiverse families: not enough time in the day; not enough energy; competing priorities; not knowing where to start; limited access to the right people, programming and places (we’re working on that one!); and stretched resources, to name some of the common themes I’ve heard.

Two other important barriers that come up consistently are low motivation and behaviors that can make engaging in exercise and general activity difficult. These issues are by no means restricted to neurodiverse people (I submit Exhibit A, “The Average American!”) But they do manifest differently and often more strongly in neurodiverse people.

I was feeling both of these challenges in Lucas as we headed to our little home gym. And to be honest, I was facing one of the other challenges I mentioned above in myself: I was running out of energy. Long day, scattered schedule, tired of fighting all the little battles to get things done.

But I persisted. I gave Lucas a choice: “Do you want to start on the rower or the treadmill?” Treadmill. Great, more progress!

So, here’s where something really cool happened. Here’s where the persistence paid off. Lucas selected a program on our NordicTrack that lets the runner follow along with an elite athlete or trainer, this one being running segments of the Boston Marathon with Ashley Paulson (on Instagram @Ashkickn).

What happened next was pure gold. Lucas walked, jogged and did a little running for over 2 miles, cheering Ashley on as she ran through the crowds in Newton, MA, saying “You can do it, Ashley!” and “Believe in yourself, Ashley!”


Kristina and I listened in from the next room over, our mouths open and our eyes tearing up as our son enthusiastically encouraged an elite endurance athlete to do her best and “win” the Boston Marathon. All while working hard, exercising and getting stronger, himself.

Now, I can guarantee you we’ve not cracked the “exercise code” here for Lucas. The next workout we try will have its struggles. We may or may not get through it. But that’s okay. As Eric Chessen, founder of Autism Fitness says, Meet the athlete where they are. Today, Lucas helped us understand a little better where he is and where we need to meet him to support and encourage him.

It was a beautiful moment, a perfect example of Luke’s humanity, enthusiasm and empathy. And it was a firm reminder of the potential that all neurodiverse people have and the things they will do when we lower the barriers and raise the bar.

Be Healthy, Happy & Kind

 

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