Rebecca and Alex 

Rebecca, one of our supporters, shares what is motivating her to take on the London Landmarks Half Marathon in March…

If a flower doesn't thrive – you change the environment it grows in, not the flower. This is what I'm trying to do for my boy Alex and other autistic people like him.

“I turned 40 in 2017 and at the start of the year I set myself a number of challenges, to do things I'd never done before. One of those was to run a half-marathon. I signed up for a local half-marathon and halfway though training saw an advert for London Landmarks. Even though I hadn't run a half-marathon yet and I didn't know if I would make the distance, the thought of being able to run through the capital city past all the landmarks was a massive pull. When I found out that The National Autistic Society was one of the charities I could run for, it was a no-brainer!

“My eldest son Alex is autistic and my daughter is currently under assessment. I work for a company, Cadent, which provides year-long work internships for people on the autism spectrum. Raising awareness of autism is something that's really important to me.

“There's a saying that we use a lot in our house: "If a flower doesn't thrive, you change the environment it grows in, not the flower," and that is what I'm trying to do for my boy Alex and autistic people like him. 

“Alexander was diagnosed with autism when he was 8 years old. He's now nearly 10. For a massive part of his first decade on this planet we were in constant battle with this kid who just didn't react to the world in the same way as us. Nothing was simple, every day was an uphill slog, would we get nice Alex or horrid Alex. We were bad parents, who couldn't control our child. We were failures. When he was 6, his teacher at school suggested to us that he may be on the spectrum. There was a massive sense of grief but also an overwhelming relief – finally I had something to work on. I spent a lot of time talking to other autistic people, to parents and practitioners, to try and learn more about the condition my son was born with and how we could support him as a family. I soon learnt that some of the biggest burdens we had were not with Alex, but with the society we were living in. The world around us, modern school buildings, shopping centres, open plan living, people's general intolerance of anything different, was causing us more stress. So The National Autistic Society’s awareness-raising campaigns like Too Much Information and Until Everyone Understands mean a lot to us. 

“I hope that the money #TeamAutism raise for The National Autistic Society will fund more awareness-raising and support for parents like us.

“I ran my first half marathon in 2017 and signed up for London Landmarks before I completed that so I had no idea what I was in for! I hate running, HATE it. Everything about my physique is totally not geared up for running. I'm 5'2" with 26 inch legs, I have to do two strides to most people's one!

“I had a party for my 40th birthday and asked people to donate to my JustGiving page instead of buying gifts. So far I've raised £580, but me and a few friends still have a few more fundraising events to do – we're hosting a valentine's ball and doing bacon and sausage rolls for our gym buddies after the Saturday morning classes. I hope to get close to £1,000 – not masses, but every little helps.

“When I got my vest in the post and I saw 'Until Everyone Understands', I got a bit teary. I describe my boy Alex as ‘a fish in a swimming pool’; he is surviving but it's not really the right environment. Everything about the way our society is set up works against him, it disables him. So much about school, home, life, sends him into turmoil. 

“Everyday I wish I could get inside Alex's head and find out if he is truly happy, what makes him happy, what makes him sad. Every day as a parent of an autistic child is one of worry, worrying about them, their future, how they'll cope without you, will they get a job, will they fall in love, will they be happy, who will look after them when you're gone?

“I worry about leaving the house, going to the shop, going to a restaurant. Is Alex going to be overwhelmed and have a moment? Will he cry, will be throw himself on the floor, will he throw things? Will I have to endure the tuts, and stares, and "control your child" comments that come with it?

“I'd love to live in a society that sees his brilliance, the wonder of how his incredible mind works, that celebrates his difference and embraces it. Things ARE moving in the right direction, the way my teenage nieces and nephews deal with Alex heartens me, they're so better educated than we were – there is hope for the future. And there are autism friendly activities cropping up everywhere. Even our ferry company on holiday last year gave Alex a little book on what to expect on a ferry so that we could prepare him for the journey.

“So my HOPE for this marathon, is that as people run up behind me and see "Until Everyone Understands" on the back of my vest, that they jog alongside and say "Understands what?" and then we have a chat for half a mile or so, about autism, about being autistic and being a parent of an autistic child, and that that person finishes London Landmarks understanding a little bit more about autism.”

If you want to join #TeamAutism and proudly wear one of our running vests like Rebecca, then sign up today.

Sign up for the London Landmarks marathon

Rebecca and Alex running