Gavin Beale didn’t say his first word and screamed in frustration until after his third birthday. From the time he was about 10 months old, his parents, Jenny and Jason Beale of Greensboro, were very concerned about him.
“It was a very dark time because we didn’t know what was going on with him,” said his mother, Jenny. “I knew in my heart of hearts that something wasn’t quite right.”
Gavin didn’t enjoy books or do many of the things his older brother, Owen, had done at the same age. When he was 2, the family was told that he might have autism, but he was not diagnosed until later, when he had some language and was fully assessed by Guilford County staff. In the meantime, he had rigorous speech therapy and special education teachers who came to his preschool almost every day to work with him.
Beale said the family had not been public about what they were going through with Gavin during his first couple of years. Once they got the diagnosis in spring 2014, she was ready to share their story. They formed a team for the Greensboro Run/Walk for Autism, the Autism Society of North Carolina’s annual fundraiser. She sent an email out about Gavin with a link to the page for their team, Gavin’s Gang.
The family was overwhelmed by the support of their friends, family, and community, including their home church, Guilford Park Presbyterian. “It’s a testament to Gavin, really. He’s a bright light,” she said. “It’s just a testament to how much people love him.”
In the team’s first year, the family raised almost $3,000 and in the second, their total was $3,075! The team was among the top three fundraisers for the Greensboro Run/Walk for Autism. “When we formed the team, I didn’t really expect that,” Beale said. “The power of social media is amazing!
“The nice thing about the race is that family and friends don’t have to live in Greensboro to support it,” said Beale, adding that they usually have 15-20 people who do the Run/Walk with them, but many more support the team with donations.
Now Gavin is almost 6, and “he has really blossomed,” Beale said. He has a wonderful sense of humor and is very expressive through art and music. He loves going to school but does need help with transitions and social situations. “I love how he thinks of things outside the box,” his mother said. “His perspective is so different. It’s just amazing the way his brain works.”
Gavin plays with LEGOs for hours. “We always say that he’s going to be an engineer,” Beale said. “He’s definitely a builder.”
Beale said they feel fortunate that Gavin is doing so well and want to help other families who might not know about resources that are available from the Autism Society of North Carolina, which improves the lives of individuals with autism, supports their families, and educates communities. “I just know that there are so many people that aren’t as lucky as we are. It feels good to do something.”
She also hopes that their efforts help support autism awareness in the community. Many people tell her that Gavin “doesn’t look like he has autism” or exhibit what they consider to be the usual characteristics. These misconceptions mean they may not understand what his true challenges are, she said, bringing up her concerns about how he will do with social situations in kindergarten this fall.
But one day she is not worried about is Sept. 24, when her family will be out at UNC-Greensboro for the Run/Walk for Autism. She knows that her family will be among a community of people who care and understand that day. “All these folks are experiencing on some level what we are going through.”
Step out to improve lives in the Greensboro Run/Walk for Autism on Saturday, Sept. 24! The event at UNC-Greensboro will include a 5K race and a recreational 1K run/walk. Celebrate autism awareness and acceptance with music, refreshments, and vendor space that will showcase local businesses, service providers, support resources, and sponsors. Proceeds will fund local programs of the Autism Society of North Carolina.
Register today: www.greensbororunwalkforautism.com
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