MAYFIELD HEIGHTS, Ohio -- A young man diagnosed with autism has just returned from Chicago where he sang at Soldier Field before a crowd of 20,000.
On May 18, Alex Hale debuted a song called “Walk a Mile,” which he wrote and recorded with his three-time Grammy Award-winning uncle, Joel Moss.
The 22-year-old with Asperger’s Syndrome then returned home to Northeast Ohio to perform the original ballad at the “Walk Now for Autism Speaks” event at Landerhaven by Executive Caterers in Mayfield Heights.
Alex says the lyrics were inspired by the frustration and rage he’s felt living a life with autism.
“I’ve had people tell me I’d do nothing with my life,” said Alex. “How I don’t fit in … people perceive me as this monster.”
Alex’s mother Karen says they got the diagnosis when her son was entering the first grade.
She explains the difficult and heartbreaking days that followed.
“His friends became non-friends because parents didn’t want their kids playing with Alex because they now saw Alex as different,” said Karen.
But Karen and Richard Hale wanted their son to have a normal life, and so they encouraged him to follow his dreams.
Last year he recorded a song titled “Into the Light,” and this year he did it again.
However, the song “Walk a Mile” is deeply personal for both Alex and his mother.
He wrote the song after having what he calls a meltdown.
“Not only did Alex have a meltdown, but I had one alongside of him,” said Karen.
Thirty minutes later he produced the lyrics.
He hopes when people hear the song they will have a better understanding of autism.
“People still don’t understand, they think of it as mental retardation, but it isn’t,” said Alex. “An autistic mind is a very beautiful mind.”
Over 300 people attended Wednesday night’s event in Mayfield Heights and heard Alex’s song.
Shari Goldberg, president of the local Cleveland Autism Speaks chapter, said, “I have a son who is less verbal than Alex so it’s really beautiful for me to hear what he thinks.”
When Goldberg's son was diagnosed with autism, the statistics were 1 in 1,000.
When Alex was diagnosed with Asperger’s, the numbers were 1 in 150.
Now the most recent statistics show 1 in 88 children will be diagnosed with some form of autism.
Goldberg says education and research is critical.
Their chapter has raised about $2 million since it was formed in 2007.
“And that money goes to research, raising awareness and family service projects across the country,” she said.
Alex, who was once told he’d never amount to anything, is on the committee serving as Public Relations Co-Chair for the Cleveland Walk.
He has also graduated from high school, has completed an Associate’s Degree and is working on his Bachelor’s Degree.
He hopes his work and his song will inspire other families with autism to pursue their dreams and never give up hope.
“The parents I talk to after this say, 'You give my child hope,' and that is the most satisfying thing I’ve gotten for all this,” said Alex.
The walk will take place Sept. 22.