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A Journey to the Finish Linewith A ROBYN SCHNEIDER’S identical twin toddlers, Alex and Jamie,


were happy, energetic and playful little boys. Until one day they weren’t. Te changes in her boys, seemingly subtle at first, happened over several months. Playfulness was replaced with inexplicable meltdowns and repetitive behaviors. Te boys stopped responding when others tried to engage with them, and Alex and Jamie were largely silent. Te genuine happiness Alex and Jamie had shown early on was traded for days filled with challenges, anxieties and compulsive behaviors. Te life-changing diagnosis -- “language delay with autistic characteristics” -- came when the boys were 21 months old. As Robyn came to realize there was no cure for Alex and Jamie’s


condition, her focus shiſted to finding what made them happy. Because the boys were, and remain, nonverbal, they couldn’t tell her what they liked, but much could be discerned from their reactions to activities. While some activities were more successful than others, the boys’ love of exercise and its ability to help calm them became apparent. Alex and Jamie began running three times a week and eventually


began participating in races. Given the boys’ severe autism, finding coaches who could intuitively understand and work with them was difficult. And even though the boys are identical twins, they are unique in their approach to running, necessitating their own unique coaches. “Alex is in another place when he runs; he looks absolutely


euphoric,” Robyn says. “He’s in a state of Zen; a total state of focus that incorporates a total togetherness of body and mind. And he is incredibly fast, almost always winning in his age group in races”. Jamie, on the other hand, is more of a social runner. “He likes to


run with his ipod, stop at aid stations and is especially intrigued by swishing blond ponytails,” says Robyn, now one of Jamie’s running guides. “Jamie has a ‘forever pace’ and does not care about his time.” Schneider and her husband both began running because of the


boys. Allan, was the first to lace up. He suffers from multiple sclerosis but discovered that running helped him feel better physically; it also gave him and Jamie their version of father-son time. Robyn began running at Allan’s insistence while she was battling


breast cancer. She had never taken time to care for herself, but she found a joy and freedom in running. As she progressed in both her recovery and her running abilities, she was able to share running and racing with her husband and sons, like a “normal” family. Now 26 years old, Alex and Jamie have accomplished more than


many people without disabilities. Collectively they have run in almost 350 races; including 23 marathons. Tey have raced several New York City Marathons and Boston Marathons, and were among


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those running in Boston the year of the bombing in 2013. Tis past May, Alex ran a personal-best marathon, 3:09:04, and has two Ultra marathons (50K) under his belt. As much as running brings the boys, their parents and friends joy, it also brings challenges. Te proof of success, though, is in their smiling finish-line photos and walls full of medals. In addition to caring for her sons, running and advocating on


behalf of those with autism, Robyn has written a memoir, “Silent Running: Our Family’s Journey to the Finish Line with Autism.” Robyn shares, “Even though my sons will never be able to read


my book or understand the significance of it, my wish was to leave a legacy for them,” she says. “What I didn’t realize was how much my story would resonate and inspire so many people all over the world.”, You can follow Alex and Jamie’s journey at autismrunners.com, and Robyn Schneider’s memoir is available on Amazon.


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