For the Ludwig family of Holly Springs, autism awareness is a family affair. Mason Ludwig, who was diagnosed with autism when he was 3, is now an “active 11-year-old who loves YouTube, French fries, Mickey Mouse, and most of all, his family!” said his mother, Kelley Ludwig.
“Mason’s brothers are both amazing advocates for spreading awareness and, most of all, kindness to those with autism,” Kelley said. “Our family chooses to open a door into our lives to help others, educate, and build awareness and acceptance for all children and adults living with autism.”
Mason’s oldest brother, Austin, attends UNC-Chapel Hill and has organized the Chipping in for Autism golf tournament in the Triangle for the past three years, raising awareness and donating more than $11,000 to the Autism Society of North Carolina. The event also helps support a buddy program in Mason’s school, Lincoln Heights Elementary in Fuquay-Varina. “Mason is my motivation for a lot of things I do,” Austin said. “He’s an incredible kid, super happy all the time.”
Mason’s other brother, Carson, plays football for Middle Creek High School in Apex. Mason has worked with the team for the past two years, carefully lining up bananas and handing them to the players on the day before games. “Sometimes he even replies to their thanks by signing ‘you’re welcome’,” Kelley said. “I am so thankful for this opportunity for him, because it puts all of these social skills that he is learning in school and at home to the test.”
Together, the family has been raising awareness by participating in the Triangle Run/Walk for Autism since 2009. Back then, their Run/Walk team consisted of supportive neighbors and family, but now it’s grown to include Mason’s teachers, caregivers, the Middle Creek Mustang football team, and Austin’s Sigma Chi fraternity brothers. This year, relatives from as far away as Arizona and Florida will join them in downtown Raleigh on Oct. 14 for the event. Over the years, they have raised about $10,000 to help the Autism Society of North Carolina (ASNC) improve the lives of individuals with autism and their families.
The Ludwig family thinks it is important to support ASNC because the organization provides caring and knowledgeable staff as well as resources for people affected by autism, Kelley said. “They are there for families as our children grow and new challenges arise.”
Mason’s biggest challenge is with communication. “He has speech apraxia as well as autism, which makes it a challenge for all of us, his teachers, and caregivers, to know exactly where he is academically, what he comprehends, and what his wants and needs are,” his mother said. “Especially when he is sick or hurt. It’s so hard to know how to help him when we cannot tell if he’s not feeling well.”
To help him communicate, Mason uses an app. “His favorite button to push is ‘I want to go for a ride to eat Chick-fil-A!’” Kelley said. He also communicates through the shows and movies he loves. “Once our family was looking out our window watching a winter snowfall – which was new to us coming from Florida – and Mason put on a movie and found the exact scene where Minnie says, ‘Look at all that snow outside!’ We all looked at each other in shock!”
“So we know he understands all the conversations surrounding him,” she said.
Kelley said she hopes more people will make an effort to understand individuals with autism. “Instead of trying to make children with autism conform to what some call ‘social norms,’ we need to accept and embrace the fact that each child with autism has their own unique-ness about them, and they can express their love, thoughts, and feeling in a grand way,” she said. “Autism is just a part of a person, it is not who they are. Mason is much more than a diagnosis, he is a blessing!”
Participating in the Triangle Run/Walk for Autism makes the Ludwig family feel that they are spreading that message, Kelley said.
“That day means so much to because we are surrounded by friends and family who support our family and spreading awareness, acceptance, and kindness to those of us who face some of the challenges autism brings,” Kelley said. “Every time we line up for the walk, and I look around to see the support we have, as well as the number of families surrounding us who live similar lives to ours, I can’t help tearing up.”
Step out to improve lives in the Triangle Run/Walk for Autism on Saturday, Oct. 14! The event in downtown Raleigh will include a USATF-certified 5K race, which is part of the Second Empire Grand-Prix Series; a 5K noncompetitive run; a recreational 1-mile run/walk; and a kids’ dash. Celebrate autism awareness and acceptance with a kids’ play area, 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.trianglerunwalkforautism.com
Tags: ASNC, autism, autism acceptance, autism advocacy, autism awareness, autism resources, autism society north carolina, autism society of NC, Autism Society of North Carolina, Autism spectrum, Autism Spectrum Disorder, Autism Spectrum Disorders, autism support, Run/Walk for Autism, triangle run/walk for autism