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Autism can't stop local boy from chasing his dreams
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MONROE - Griffin Jacobson's favorite candy is Skittles and he can recite his favorite movie lines by heart.

Like many fifth-graders, his interests away from school are swimming, riding bikes with his family and hiking. Yet, he faces challenges as a fifth-grader with autism. Jacobson continued to amaze his family with his accomplishments after running the 400-meters in the All-City track meet May 27.

"I would have given him five pounds of Skittles," Katie Jacobson, Griffin's mother said. "It was so worth it. There was a lot of tears going on and some people were touched by it."

Griffin, who goes to Northside Elementary School, was excited by the support from his classmates who ran with him and cheered him to the finish.

"Running on the track with friends made me happy," Griffin said.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, autism spectrum disorders (ASD) are a group of developmental disabilities that can cause significant social, communication and behavioral challenges. People with ASDs handle information in their brain differently than other people and the severity can range from mild to severe. The CDC estimates that 1 in 110 children in the U.S. have an ASD.

Jacobson said Griffin displayed language, developmental delays and didn't make eye contact at an early age. He was diagnosed with autism when he was 2 1/2 years old. By 3, he was undergoing 40 hours of therapy a week learning communication, social and play skills.

He still has a therapist who works with him at home about two hours a day every week day on life skills.

"He has had almost a full-time job since he was 3," Katie said.

Jacobson has taken advantage of the few sports opportunities available to Griffin in Monroe. He has taken the special needs yoga class through the Green County YMCA and he has taken the art therapy class. Griffin has also taken swimming lessons in Madison. Even so, Jacobson said there is still a need to develop more sports programs for children with special needs in Monroe.

The All-City track meet was a chance for Griffin to run with his friends. He had his sister Delaney and classmates run with him during the 400.

"Anything he does, we have to practice, prep for it and pay to have one of the therapists go with him," Katie said. "He never gets these opportunities. He can't play basketball and soccer."

Griffin went with his family to the track two days a week for five weeks to practice running around the track and to mimic starts.

"It was a huge commitment for our family," Katie said. "Most people would have stayed home. It's much easier to stay home.

But "on the day of the track meet, it was worth it for him and us."