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A Marathon Effort for Riverside and Early Intervention

Coming to the Boston area for medical school by way of the US Army, Samuel Lyon certainly knows about tenacity and commitment.  But he and his wife Ana (they met while serving together in the Army; he’s been in for 11 years and she left after ten) had no idea how those qualities could be tested until the day their two-year-old son Benjamin was diagnosed with autism.

Samuel will run the rescheduled 2021 Boston Marathon on October 11, raising awareness and funds for Riverside and its Early Intervention services.  He runs to honor the program and the people that helped his family navigate the critical first steps in their journey to ensure their son’s best possible future.

Benjamin was a late walker, and Samuel recalls their joy when he took his first unassisted steps at 18 months during a family outing along the Minuteman Rail Trail in Lexington.  But other worrisome signs remained, and at his two-year check-up Benjamin’s pediatrician referred him for a developmental evaluation. Ana called Samuel on the way home from that visit with the diagnosis of autism, and they both remember feeling lost and wondering, “What happens next?  What will our little boy’s life be like?  Will he have friends?  Will he be happy?”

Fortunately, they found Riverside Early Intervention in Needham, and were able to walk the first crucial steps of the journey hand-in-hand with Rachel, the Riverside clinician who coordinated services for Benjamin and his family.  She answered their questions, calmed their fears, and most of all connected all of the pieces together – be it strategies for language development, working with a physical therapist to help with movement, or simply offering parenting guidance and advice – to help Benjamin reach his milestones and Ana and Samuel to feel more confident and secure about his future. In fact, she was such a part of their lives that there are photos where she seems to blend right into the family!

Along the way, they came to realize that there would be hard days, when everything seemed uphill, and exhilarating days, like the first steps on the rail trail.  And things change all the time, like the day Benjamin suddenly overcame his extreme dislike of slides and swings and decided they were now his favorite things on the playground.  Most of all, Samuel mused, the challenge is coming to terms with the realization that you can control small things – but never all things – throughout this adventure.

By the way, as he trains for his Marathon run, Samuel is fresh off the Pan-Mass Challenge, having biked 200 miles over the weekend of August 6-8 to raise funds for cancer research, in honor of the young daughter of friends who is undergoing treatment for a brain tumor.  And Ana is training to run the Marathon in October as well, supporting an organization that brings disability awareness to elementary schools.

All of this is quite the feat for a busy family of five, which along with Benjamin (now 4), includes sister Gabby, age 5 (as the oldest sibling, always ready to take charge), and three-year-old MJ (always ready to follow along and take direction…usually!).

When asked about the roots of their extraordinarily active sense of commitment, Samuel notes, “All of us have very different skills and strengths.  But there’s something every single one of us can contribute, each in our own way.  This happens to be mine.  I’m proud and happy to run as hard as I can to support all the families who will experience the same amazing joys, paralyzing fears – and ultimately, gratitude and hope – that Ana and I have.”

You can support Samuel’s run for Riverside here:

Riverside Early Intervention programs in Needham and Somerville provide educational, therapeutic, and supportive services to children from birth to age 3 who have, or are at risk of, delays in their development.  All members of Riverside Early Intervention team – development specialists, physical and occupational therapists, speech and language pathologists, social workers, and mental health clinicians – are certified as Early Intervention specialists by the Massachusetts Department of Public Health and work to empower families to meet their children’s individual needs. Learn more on our website

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