Reporter: Danner Evans l Videographer: Brian Whitesell
Forest, VA - Autism is a very real thing every one in 110 parents are dealing with. The Zealand family knows that reality all too well because their son, 10-year-old Coleman, was diagnosed when he was 2.
They are sharing their story and hoping to help other parents just like them find the resources they need right here in our area.
Coleman was one when Andrea and Clark Zealand noticed something was different.
"We kind of blamed it on the fact that he's not feeling good, he is sick," Andrea said. "Then around 18 months we started to see more violent behavior, peripheral gaze, looking at TV credits from the corner of his eye, inappropriate laughter."
"We were given this diagnoses of autism and at the time we were kind of given this message of good luck and not given a lot of direction," Clark remembers.
"Our first step was jump on the Internet and start Googling and researching and we just read as broadly as we possibly could and we researched options and thought I might see Coleman fitting in here," Clark said. "Other ones we read about we thought, I don't think that is going to work for him
"We went with more of the options of there are so many things you can do. We delve into dietary intervention which he responded to," Andrea said. "Also his autism symptoms lessoned when his immune system is strengthened. It really lies in the immune system. He regresses when he is stressed. When his health is good he progresses."
The Zealands are hoping an event Saturday, May 5th will help other parents connect to all of the organizations in our area that are available to autistic children.
Coleman's Run is a 5K that begins at the Aid Station at 1035 Avalon Drive in Forest. All the proceeds will benefit Educational Solutions of Central Virginia -- a local nonprofit that helps families who are caring for a loved one with autism.
There will also be organizations available at the event so you can learn more about what they offer people with autism.
"We know that there are people out there that we haven't met or know who are in the same boat as us," Clark said. "We want them to be able to come to an event, like Coleman's Run, and find out so what do we do now."
The Zealands believe how they handle each day is a big part of Coleman's healing and their own
"I find parenting a child with autism is about changing me," Clark said. "It's about changing us perhaps and learning to be really flexible."
"Unconditional acceptance in what our God has brought to our table today and accepting that and accepting that with joy and what can I learn from this situation," Andrea said.
Get more information on Coleman's Run.