GAITHERSBURG, Md. - April is National Autism Awareness Month and we are turning the spotlight on a Maryland father and son who are bonding every day through a fun and competitive outdoor game.
Tom Rowse and his son, Gregory, who has autism, enjoy playing disc golf every afternoon at 3 p.m. On this April afternoon, they were out at Seneca Creek State Park in Gaithersburg enjoying the spring weather.
"I have been looking for a sport for us to play and to be able to do together since he was a child," said Tom.
Gregory is a student at Wootton High School and is in an autism program at the school. One day, Tom asked his son if he wanted to learn disc golf.
"He said, 'Yes!' He's been enamored by the sound of the chains. He made that sound and he was addicted," Tom described.
Gregory's father said his son gets to be himself out on the course.
"After school, we come out here to this beautiful playground," said Tom. "I feel he is taking his own path and doing his own thing."
Getting to be in the outdoors has helped Gregory physically and emotionally.
"This is his favorite thing - to be around nature," said his father. "I don't have to argue with him. I don't have to bully him. All I have to do is bring him outside and get him the exercise that he needs. Two years ago, he was unhealthy, he was extremely obese and now I have seen such a marked change in him."
Tom said he saw something in Gregory while playing disc golf that he's rarely seen throughout his life.
"I actually saw pride and I saw him being proud," he said.
But the biggest thing Tom gets out of these daily outings is that it brings him closer with his son.
"We come out every day, so we are with each other and exposed to each other every single day," said Tom. "It brings us together. I'm just lucky to have found it."