The Inspirational 2010 Winter Olympics - Autism Awareness

The Inspirational 2010 Winter Olympics

I must admit, I love the Winter Olympics. I am an avid figure skating fan (and skater in my free time) and enjoy this extra event which happens once every 4 years. Daily, I read the Globe and Mail Vancouver 2010 section, checked the CTV Olympics website, and watched various events in the evening. I got together with friends to watch the main figure skating events. My figure skating coach is on the International Olympic Committee, her husband is the coach of our men’s downhill ski team, and another fellow skater is the official translator for the Hungarian athletes. I knew people who attended the Games and gave first hand accounts of being there. I felt very connected to these Games.

What is so compelling about the Olympics? I think it is the stories behind the athletes and what they achieved at such a high level. We read and heard interviews about the sacrifices families made to see their child reach the height of their sport, the determination, and the years of training it took to qualify for the games. I was particularly moved by Alexandre Bilodeau’s story, his inspiration being his brother who has cerebral palsy. I cried during Joannie Rochette’s short program. She displayed great strength and courage skating for her country so soon after her mother passed away. I was also brought to tears by the sheer beauty of the free dance program skated by Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir. I’ve met the Moir family before at Nationals and was in awe of their love and support for these young people.

In my own life, I have many mountains to climb and things to overcome in the world of autism. I’ve fought for high quality services for both of my children, for a good school, for the right teachers and aides, and for support in the community. Nothing has come easy for us as a family. I had to give up my career as a music teacher in order to be at home more. My husband and I have juggled schedules so that one of us is here at all times. We do use our respite care hours for much needed breaks but have made the commitment to be hands-on parents and involved. We’ve had many setbacks, funding cuts, and people quitting but we’ve persevered.

I guess I see my personal struggle in what the athletes and their families have gone through. There are parallels. Last week my coach said she puts as much effort into coaching us as she does in to her Olympic athletes. That statement made me feel proud and want to work even harder. I think our children know when we’re making an effort and feel that sense of pride too.

My other thought on the Olympics is the sense of hope Canadians have left me with. We are a community that cares and gets involved. I heard on the CBC this morning that we have the highest rate of volunteerism in the world. That says something about a nation that gives without monetary reward. We can pull together when it is required of us. At the conferences Autism Awareness Centre hosts, I always close with thanking the professionals who stick with our families even though they could do an easier job. I also thank the teacher aides who work for very little pay yet make such a difference in a child’s life.

As these Winter Olympics come to a close, I can say I am proud to be a Canadian and live in this great country of ours. We do have the ability to change things for the better and that’s what keeps me going.

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