On Sunday, May 29th, Evan Sheldrake will take to the scenic roads of West Niagara on the 8th Annual Evan’s Ride for Autism to raise funds to support individuals and families living with Autism Spectrum Disorders in Niagara. Here is Evan’s story.
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 –
I’ll never forget when Evan took off without the training wheels. It didn’t take him long to master that. He wanted to do it so much. It was good exercise, it was great to release the tension in his joints and wonderful to see him look “normal” for a change. He would ask me to go riding night after night. We would ride behind our house in the Church parking lot. Evan was always ahead of me. I found that I couldn’t actually keep up. We were basically going in large circles but he was still riding on his own.
Evan will be 20 in April. This year in high school Evan has been doing a co-op in a greenhouse. He follows instructions well and likes to be given responsibility. Len hopes he can work, even just a few hours a week, this summer at one of the greenhouses.
Evan still has his challenges. Right now the challenge is trying to get Evan to increase his social skills and be able to have real life conversations. He tends to fixate on one specific action or one phrase or sentence and gets stuck in a rut where he talks about movies and television.
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.
If you’re interested in joining Evan on his Ride or making a donation, visit www.evansride.ca