Jamie Smith, our very Special Olympian

How exciting it was to pick up Sunday’s Chicago Tribune and see the terrific front page article on Jamie Smith! Jamie is a 24-year-old Special Olympian medal winner. He’s a man with autism, strong in more ways than one.

On Tuesday, December 11, Jamie’s mother Alice — along with Wendy Murphy from Easter Seals Metropolitan Chicago and Tribune reporters Rex Huppke and Nancy Stone — took questions from the public in a live interactive chat that can be viewed here.

We at Easter Seals have had the pleasure of knowing Jamie and his family since he was 7 years old — it’s so rewarding to see the Chicago Tribune acknowledge Jamie’s accomplishments:

In October, he was going to China. He would compete as a powerlifter at the Special Olympics World Games.

The importance of Easter Seals in Jamie’s life is woven throughout the article, starting with Jamie’s enrollment at Easter Seals Metropolitan Chicago:

Margaret Creedon founded the Easter Seals Therapeutic Day School. When she met Jamie, he was a skinny, kinetic boy, barely verbal, with a permanent scar from banging the back of his head against the bedroom wall. He had chewed his fingernails so far down they bled.

Still, she saw a capable person wrapped in an autistic cocoon … not long after he arrived at Easter Seals, Jamie joined many of his fellow students competing in local Special Olympics events. Autism provided him boundless energy and a desire for rules and structure. Competition became a central part of his life, as did a need to win.

Jamie is not only an Olympic winner, but a winner in life. When you have autism, finding a job can be, well, an Olympian task. Jamie found not one job, but two:

When he reached adulthood, Easter Seals counselors helped him get a job at a South Side produce store. After he graduated, they gave him a second job as an assistant in the school’s adult vocational program.

Thanks to Jamie, Tribune readers in Chicago — and throughout the nation — know what a tremendous difference Easter Seals can make for people who have autism. Jamie is an inspiration to other people with disabilities working toward their goals, and his successes are an inspiration to all of us.

Everyone at Easter Seals Headquarters will have the opportunity to meet Jamie and his mother, Alice Smith, when they join us for our next all staff meeting on December 18. It will be an honor to be in the presence of this Olympian — a very special man with a very special family.


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