Parents of children with autism at Special Olympics talk challenges, rewards


It was a beautiful day for a few students to spend some time outside of the classroom running, jumping and throwing their way into first, second and third places.   The Columbia County Special Olympics was held at Greenbrier High School Friday.

The event is a chance for students with special needs to shine too and have some fun. 

NewsChannel 6 pulled three mothers aside today raising children with Autism. And like the events their children faced during the games, sometimes the journey can be a challenge.  But it is one they said is uniquely beautiful. 

“They have a chance to get out and be with other children who have disabilities,”  said Misti Baldwin, mother of a son in Riverside Middle School’s Autism Program:

You could hear the sound of a whistle as students took off in the 100 meter dash.

Next, you heard cheers as supporters were there to cheer them on at the finish line.  Greenbrier High School football field transformed into Columbia County’s Special Olympics, where students with special needs not only ran, but competed in seven events including softball throw and running long jump.  That’s where Riverside Middle School’s Chase performed.  His mother, Baldwin, said he has autism and raising a son with it can be challenging.    

She explained, “Worrying about his future.  Worrying about what he will do when he’s out of school and as we age as parents.”

12-year-old Harmony participated too.  

She’s in the Autism Program at Riverside Middle as well where her mother is already working in the community to bring parents of children with autism together for support. 

“There is a program called Katie Beckett program where you child can get medical attention through the state,” Cre Stokes said of the things she has learned over time.  “I didn’t know about it until I got turned down for other things and I had to learn on my own.”

Learning is something the mother of twins Paris and Payton Andrews is doing too.  Born at just 24 weeks, Paris has autism and Payton does not. 

“Autism is a beautiful unique puzzle for a reason,” said Mini Marie Andrews, author of Purpose Filled Mommy with Minimarie Blog.  “So, it’s not for us to generalize every person with autism and not to underestimate their abilities.  They are smart.  They are intelligent.  They are full of personalities.”

April recognizes Autism Awareness.  And Harmony’s mom planned a fashion show for children like hers to feel special.  

“Autism children are not weird,” Stokes said.  “They are not strange.  They are some very lovable children.  They’re very talented.” 

The “Defying Autism Odds Fashion Show” takes place Saturday, April 14.  It will be held at Marvin United Methodist Church, located at 4400 Wheeler Road in Martinez at 2:00 p.m.  The cost is $20 for adults, $10 for children ages 6 to 17 and it is free for children 5 and younger.  The theme is #Different Not Less and it will feature clothing from local designers.  For more information, contact Cre Stokes at

Photojournalist: Mark Gaskins

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