Written by Chris' mother:
For the most part pregnancy with Chris was normal. Just before I delivered Chris his heart rate dropped drastically scaring us all greatly! When he made his debut he was rushed away for extra care due to him not breathing well. After they gave him oxygen and such his respiratory and heartrate returned to within normal limits.
Chris was a precious and sweet baby but as he grew we noticed he was not like other toddlers. He had terrible fits yet was quiet/withdrawn from others. He did not seem to understand things children his age should. He was very slow to speak and if he did it was very difficult to know what he was saying. He even ran out in front of cars in parking lots out of frustration with communication barriers. He had digestive problems, was sensitive to certain sounds, food, clothing, and there were many more issues that concerned us. Yet he quickly learned to crawl and in no time took off walking.
As he grew he could run, play, climb, swim and more with the best of them but he still was quiet and withdrawn from social scenes, experienced heightened sensitivity especially to noises, he was a very picky eater and the sensitivity issues continued to grow. Chris had to face being bullied so much more than most kids and he had a lot of difficulty understanding the world around him. After years of special education, speech and occupational therapy, IEPs, endless evaluations, a variety of test he was diagnosed at the age of 9 with Autism (the Apserger's type). This was hard to hear yet for us as parents there was some relief because we finally knew what we were facing and what his condition was called. After the diagnosis we searched for information. Autism wasn't understood nor could we easily obtain information as it is today.
Chris has always been athletic and active. We tried all types of sports like, football, soccer, t-ball, baseball and basketball. But due to his Autism and other challenges he would find himself on the bench almost the entire game. We saw the harmful effects from this as it diminished his confidence and self-esteem greatly. In 2009 Chris’ grandparents purchased a small 70cc ATV for him. There was concern and we worried about how he would handle himself and his safety, but he immediately showed natural talent and good riding techniques. He absolutely loved it!
In August of 2010 Chris asked if he could try racing. We took him out to our local practice track where he demonstrated the ability to handle himself, his mini quad, and he enjoyed it. On August 23, 2010 he raced his first motocross event on his 70cc Panther with other built 90cc mini racing quads. Chris truly enjoyed himself and fell in love with the sport of ATV Motocross racing immediately. He competed in every race event from there out in that series that year and placed 5th overall. With each race we noticed a slight change occurring in Chris as his autistic tendencies were more controlled, he felt better and his daily living skills improved. Chris was improving with very little to no backwards progression.
As much as he loved the sport Chris had many obstacles to overcome so he could race. If you've ever been to a motocross event it's loud and for racers it can be very dirty, hot or cold, they must wear full protective gear from head to toe and there are many things going on at once. Due to his Autism he was sensitive to loud sounds and didn’t like the feeling of the dirt or wet mud on him. Anytime Chris was around the track he had earplugs in or his helmet on to help muffle the sounds. He also wore rain gear while riding in wet muddy conditions. Because of his love for the sport of he endured and adapted. At the end of the 2010 season his little ATV was no longer suited for racing or his level of riding. On November 4, 2010 we gave him a 2008 APEX 90cc MXR Pro mini racing quad. He was timid on the new machine for a couple of months as it was louder, faster, had more vibration and bigger. After he learned to trust his new bike and got comfortable he began to blossom as a racer more than ever improving in the following areas:
This progression transferred into his daily living:
The sport was therapeutic for him while taking him to a new level in life he had never experienced before!
As much as racing helped Chris he continued to struggle if his racing routine changed which in motocross can happen at any time. Mechanical issues would upset him and the simple task such as just holding up his hand to signal the race staff there was an issue when on the gate proved to be too much for him. Anything out of the normal routine would send him into a meltdown. He had a tough time understanding verbal instructions as his comprehension has always been at a much lower level than his age. We found that using drawings or hands on showing instead of verbal instruction helped him. He would watch countless hours of ATV racing videos and recorded video of himself racing to help refine his skills. Chris improved greatly with the use of a GOPRO camera mounted on his helmet. After each race or practice we would watch the video together seeing his point of view. This little camera made a huge difference in how we assisted Chris improve as a racer. He certainly has come a long way since that first race in August of 2010 and it has been a beautiful blessing to watch him grow, learn, and blossom over the years through racing.
Nowadays the track atmosphere is where Chris lights up. He talks to others from time to time on his own, is ok if his routine is interrupted, has learned consistency, hard work and dedication are needed to be successful, his nutrition and sleeping improves,
understands racing techniques verbally, knows when he needs to focus and his self-confidence/self-esteem are greater today than ever before.
He does continue to struggle with eye contact, cognitive skills, asking questions and being introduced into new elements of any kind yet he is rarely bothered by loud sounds and his sensitivity with clothing and wet muddy conditions is nonexistent.
Racing has provided Chris with many opportunities including traveling to 20 US states, including Texas, New York, Washington DC, just to name a few and visit places like Niagara Falls, Lake Michigan, the 9/11 museum, the Statue of Liberty, the AMA Motorcycle Hall of Fame, Texarkana, and many more great places. He has met numerous people from around the world, and introduced him to many different cultures.
He still has his tough days at home and on the track. The transition from minor to adult has really proved to be challenging for our entire family. I always thought it would get easier as he became an adult but as a mom I found out that was very inaccurate. His emotions boil over at times on the track because he’s very passionate about racing and is competitive. He continues to work to keep them in check as we all must do.
We notice during the winter months when there is little to no racing Chris struggles with his emotions and daily living including relating to others, anxiety, and staying focused/on task. COVID-19 it's helping either!
We looked for new outlets for Chris during the cold months a found Snowboarding to be a great athletic release for him thanks to the Tennessee Winter Special Olympics.
Chris has been blessed to have remained healthy for the most part since he started racing until 2015 while competing and in the lead at a National event located he hit a kicker that tossed him off his mini quad and it ended on top of him where he could not get out. His brake rotor was still turning and very hot which ended going thru his chest protector and jersey giving him a 2nd degree burn on his left shoulder yet he wanted to keep racing in the next event that day even as we were removing his gear to look at his injury. Video of that is here: https://youtu.be/QN2N7fA-GMI
In June of 2017 he had a wreck at a National race located at Sunset Ridge MX in Walnut, IL that fractured his right shoulder and damaged the nerves surrounding his right scapula causing it to droop. With therapy and time, he has made a complete recovery. It has taken him time to overcome some fears from that, but he’s proved to himself and others that he’s resilient!
GO AWAY COVID-19!!!!
BELOW ARE PHOTOS OF CHRIS THROUGHOUT HIS LIFE & RACING.
Chris during his third race in August of 2010. Photo Credit: Timothy Keller Photography
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