Mallory Fowler had no idea what to do when her son Hunter was first diagnosed with autism.
Today however, she is a tireless advocate for Hunter and other children and adults with autism, serving as a volunteer at the annual Walk the Walk for Autism in Truro Saturday.
“It was very overwhelming in the beginning,” said Fowler. “I had to do a lot of research, I didn’t know a lot about autism at that point, but of course when your child is red-flagged for that, I took as much time to research as I could and get involved in any way I could.”
Her involvement helped raise roughly $17,000 for services and supports for Truro-area people living with autism this year, as well as bring 150 or so people out for the June 22 walk.
Hunter himself joined the walk as part of the team named in his honour, which raised about $2,500 and counting as of Saturday morning.
He went hand-in-hand with his best friend Bryson Stewart from North River Elementary School, in the absence of his mother who was helping to co-ordinate the event.
At school, seven-year-old Hunter receives one-on-one assistance from an education assistant and has nearly completed Grade 1. Outside school, Hunter has benefited from respite care, speech therapy and early intensive behavioural therapy.
While he is still ‘non-verbal’, Fowler said he can say individual words like ‘apple’ to express his needs, but cannot speak in full sentences. Hunter also uses an iPad app to help him communicate with his family.
When asked if she thought Hunter will one day be able to talk normally, she replied, “I always hope the answer to that question is yes.”
“He’s beautiful and he’s smart and he’s wonderful and he’s cute as a button,” said Fowler.
Lori Logue-Storr, vice-president of Autism Nova Scotia’s Truro chapter, said this year’s Walk the Walk for Autism was the seventh annual such event in town her group has run.
“We’re very proud of the turnout today,” said Logue-Storr.
Recently, her organization has moved into a new office at 89 Queen Street in Truro.
Walk the Walk for Autism was originally planned to start in Victoria Park and move through downtown Truro, but it was moved to the Rath Eastlink Community Centre’s indoor walking track on June 22 due to rainy weather.
A planned bouncy castle, petting zoo and other fun activities planned for Saturday have been postponed to an as-yet unspecified later date.
People can still make donations at http://walkthewalkforautism.ca/truro.