When their son Joey still hadn’t started talking by the time he turned 2, Kyle and Missy Cheney knew something wasn’t right. After a series of tests, Joey was diagnosed with autism, specifically Pervasive Developmental Disorder, Not Otherwise Specified (PDD-NOS).
“That was really, really difficult for my wife and me, to understand what PDD-NOS is and what it meant,” Kyle said.
The Cheneys enrolled Joey in the Integrated Preschool for Children with Autism at the Family Child Learning Center in Tallmadge, a collaborative effort of Akron Children’s Hospital and Kent State University.
“The FCLC was life-changing for our family,” Kyle said. “Their methods of teaching, their technologies and the teachers themselves were truly amazing. They brought Joey along to where he could speak and he could articulate what was bothering him and what he needed. He stopped building up frustration and became much happier.”
To help other children with autism, Kyle and Missy launched Strides for Autism in connection with the Rite Aid Cleveland Marathon, allowing people to sign up as runners and raise money on behalf of FCLC. The money will help FCLC purchase specialized technologies and education for children.
“We love Akron and we thought, if there’s a chance and a point in time that we could grow into the Akron Marathon that would be an ideal thing to do,” Kyle said. “And lo and behold, Akron Children’s takes over the lead sponsorship of the Akron Marathon this year.”
For the first time this year, Strides for Autism will fundraise through all 3 Akron Children’s Hospital Akron Marathon Race Series events in addition to the Rite Aid Cleveland Marathon. Throughout the past 6 years of the program, Strides for Autism has raised about $240,000 for FCLC.
“Strides for Autism allows our program to reach other families who may be just starting their journey with autism,” said Abbie McCauley, director of the integrated preschool at FCLC. “The whole event allows us to gather together friends and family and be active for a cause that’s very near and dear to our hearts.”
Kyle credits FCLC with helping Joey achieve the success he’s had. Today, he’s in a typical 3rd grade classroom at St. Hilary School in Fairlawn. And while autism still poses challenges, Joey is excelling.
He continually reaches new heights by trying new things including sports, foods and activities. More than that, speaking has become one of Joey’s strengths.
“We call him motor mouth from time to time,” said Kyle. “He’s making up for all those words he didn’t have until he was 3.”
Kyle said that Strides for Autism has helped his family give back to the children in our community.
“Being the parent of an autistic child myself, when you see an avenue to be able to make a difference it’s a wonderful thing,” he said. “It’s so natural to do that.”
If you would like to sign up as a runner for Strides for Autism or support a Strides for Autism runner, visit their fundraising page.