I’ll be the first to admit...I’ve been a fair-weather Minnesota Vikings Fan. They’ve come so close many times to making it to playoffs only to allow errors to cost a game. So, when I was asked to appear at a Vikings Fan Club gathering I was excited, not so much to watch the game, but more-so to meet the interesting people I knew would be there. And, as Mrs. Minnesota International, I knew I was going to get a chance to speak at halftime about my platform Understanding The Puzzle of Autism.
In an unexpected turn of events, I not only had a blast cheering and screaming for the Vikings, but I learned the Skol Vikings song AND was able to connect with some parents of children with Autism including Talance Sawyer, who was once a defensive end for the Minnesota Vikings!
As we cheered and chanted, the Vikings played their best, although that particular day we did not taste victory (of course that was 1 of only 3 losses in their pre-playoff season). It didn’t matter to me that day. As I took the microphone and announced how grateful I was to be there, and how welcomed I felt by the fan club, and began telling the story of my son Benjamin, the dull hum in the event center fell silent.
I watched people’s faces change, I saw heads nod in agreement as I spoke about the skyrocketing numbers of children diagnosed these days, and the unique “special abilities” that are often overlooked in the Autism community. As I finished and said one final “thank you” to the crowd, I was met with a circle of interested parents who wanted to share their own stories of the children and in some cases grandchildren that they loved and cared for that also have a diagnosis of Autism.
As I got to know former Vikings player Talance Sawyer and as he described his son and their journey with the diagnosis, I was most impressed with the various types of interventions they’ve already tried and are working on with his 8 year old son. He knew about everything from special diets to biomedical intervention to Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy! I was also very proud to learn that he and his wife are considering moving back to Minnesota because of the extensive and innovative therapeutic schools Minnesota now has. It also gave me the chance to brag about the amazing work my partner organization The Minnesota Autism Center Schools are doing to help thousands of kids around the state get the schooling and therapy they need to live full, productive and happy lives.