Nicole Gooldy was overjoyed.
What new mother wouldn’t be? When her Jack Henry was born, he was the cutest baby in the world in her eyes.
It was several months later when she realized he was missing some developmental checkpoints and began to worry.
“He made inconsistent eye contact and was flapping his hands,” Gooldy said. “I just thought he was the happiest baby, I posted videos of him on the swing flapping his hands. I wonder how many people knew and we were just ignorant.”
Jack Henry had a speech delay and had some issues responding to his own name. Nicole went to Bellevue-based nonprofit Kindering.
“We did a pretty rigorous speech delay check . It was almost two hours,” she said. “At the end, they handed me a checklist of “signs of autism.” Almost every box was checked.”
She cried in her car. Jack Henry was diagnosed with autism at 22 months old.
Although now, she realizes his diagnosis is who makes him who he is, at the time it was devastating. Gooldy is now a major advocate for early screening.
Kindering, along with the Special Olympics Washington and other organizations will receive funding from the All in for Autism 5K/10K Run/Walk to be held on April 23 in Downtown Bellevue.
This year’s iteration will be the 11th time the race has been held in Bellevue, and organizers expect more than 2,500 participants to help benefit autism-related causes.
“Mr. Sounder” Zach Scott spoke at the same Bellevue Breakfast Rotary Club meeting as Gooldy, and mentioned his sister’s own struggles with a child with autism.
Autism is a neurodevelopmental disorder characterized by impaired social interaction, verbal and non-verbal communication, and restricted and repetitive behavior. It can be extremely challenging for the child and the parents, family members, teachers and others to communicate.
In 2014, about one in 68 children born in the United States would fall somewhere on the autism spectrum according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
At nearly four, Jack Henry’s life hasn’t ended. He’s a happy boy who loves trains, cars and Star Wars. He attends a developmental preschool where he is learning to socialize with others.
Kirby Winfield was led to the podium by precocious daughter Kate, who has Down Syndrome and autism.
A start-up entrepreneur, Kirby admits he was pretty self-involved before Kate came into his life.
”I wouldn’t have understood the point of doing something like this,” he said.
But things have changed for the Winfield family. Kirby said his time with family and the community has grown, and his understanding of differently-abled children and their families has flowered. He said he can’t do things the same way another parent might, and he has learned to be more patient.
Bellevue Mayor John Stokes read a proclamation from the city, declaring April to be Autism Awareness Month, and that people of all abilities were welcomed to thrive in Bellevue, which is trying to become a more understanding city.
The All in for Autism run starts at Bellevue Downtown Park. The 10-kilometer course will run along Interstate 405 on Lake Washington Boulevard Southeast, head over I-90 and back up Bellevue Way to the park, where it will finish.
Check-in begins at 6:45 and the first race starts at 8 a.m. Get more information at allinforautism.org.