“I Have Autism, But Autism Doesn’t Have Me.”
Walker Aurand said, “I think I’m ready. I think I’m ready to let kids my age know that I have autism, but autism doesn’t have me…”
Walker wrote the paper on living with autism—and soon he had an opportunity to share his story with an even larger audience. A family friend and local artist, Pamela Alderman, was preparing for an upcoming competition in Grand Rapids called ArtPrize. She wanted to paint Walker, and next to the painting she wanted to include an excerpt from his essay.
And this wasn’t just any art event. Held in downtown Grand Rapids every year, ArtPrize attracts hundreds of thousands of attendees. Walker considered the offer for about a week, and then he agreed to have his story included. And then on the day it opened…
“He came home from school,” Anna recalls, “and he said, ‘Mom, this freakish thing happened today.’ He said, ‘I’m sorta freaked out about it.’ He said, ‘All these kids saw my painting,’ and he said, ‘My phone is blowing up.’ He said, ‘I bet I have 150 texts: Is that you, Walker? Is that you, Walker?’ He said, ‘Mom, I didn’t know I had friends.’ I said, ‘Right.’ I said, ‘How do you feel about all this?’ He said, ‘I’ve decided it’s OK.’”
…The same guy who used to hide his disorder from other students and teammates recently published an essay about his experience on a Michigan hockey website.
These days Walker Aurand has nothing to hide—and he wants to make a difference.
“I hope that if there’s someone else out there like me, that it shows that there’s hope for everybody,” Walker says. “If your gut’s telling you to go and achieve something, then go do it. And don’t worry about what other people tell you that you can and can’t do.”