“Every day is a new experience with Evan. It’s important to have a routine but change is always around the corner so keep your mind open when it comes to making transition smooth. Dealing with a child with Autism is incredibly challenging and then it’s extremely rewarding. It’s frustrating beyond words and then it’s comical like you wouldn’t believe. It’s impossible and then….it’s possible.”
- Len Sheldrake, 2011
When Evan Sheldrake was 2, he was diagnosed as being severely autistic. His parents, Len and Denise, were told he would never speak or be able to learn complex tasks like riding a bicycle.He wasn’t a good sleeper at all. Many nights his parents stayed up with him, rocking him and holding him tight. That’s when Len realized pressure helped to calm him.Denise worked tirelessly with Evan on a Picture Exchange Program (PECs). Evan learned to associate words one-by-one with their pictures and slowly began putting 2 and 3 words together until he finally built up to a sentence. With this and the reward system he would learn to speak.Financial assistance, programs and services were often hard to come by while Evan was growing up. Sometimes Evan wasn’t eligible for programs or faced long waiting lists. Sometimes the needed programs were just not available.But the family persisted and Evan kept improving – even if it was often two steps forward and then one back. When Evan was 10, he was re-assessed and diagnosed as being on the mild side of moderate on the autism spectrum.
And when he was 12, the training wheels came off Evan’s bike –
“Something happened to to me that first time I witnessed Evan take his first few strides without the aid of training wheels. That moment in time changed me as a person … I was given a gift in Evan.”
Evan will be 22 in April. He alternates his days between an adult day care program and spending time with his grandmother. He follows instructions well and likesto be given responsibility.
Evan still has his challenges. But, he’s always listening; he hears everything. If he is really interested in something he will look you in the eyes and he will respond when the conversation pertains to him. Len thinks that he is loveable by nature – perhaps intensified with the added rocking him and holding him tight to calm him.
Evan’s story reminds us what can happen when we work together to make a little miracle. Originally, Len had wanted to call Evan’s Ride “The Ride of Hope”, because hope is the reason the Sheldrakes, and families like them, keep working so hard to help their children reach what is expected of them and beyond.
“… I wanted to share this celebration of accomplishment. A ride for others to partake in. To raise awareness. To present hope. To raise funds for those that need the programs and services. Funds for research. Creating a unified group to support Autism and the challenges we will all face.”