It’s those big brown eyes, that hearty laugh that slowly rolls from his stomach and zooms upwards with unleashed momentum and — unceremoniously — jubilantly comes out of his mouth with pure glee, and that giant heart which makes Chase Edwards a gentle prince.
While enjoying a characteristic chuckle from family and friends Chase is, in the truest sense, a sneaky prankster. You really have to be on extra-high alert when you are around him for a zinger coming your way with a moment’s notice.
Chase makes everyone he speaks to feel like they are the most important person in the world.
In fact, he finishes each remark, question or comment to you with your name.
When you see Chase enjoying a hamburger, or an ice-cold Mike’s Hard Lemonade or playing his favourite app on his iPhone, you will never ever see it.
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If you are a careful listener you might — operative word being “might” — notice it. Probably not, though.
Chase, like hundreds of thousands of others, has a hidden disability.
Chase lives with autism — a disability with so many nuances, different levels, different abilities and disabilities that, honestly, it’s not only difficult to explain; it can be even more challenging to completely comprehend.
Autism affects learning, behaviour, speech, social skills and many other abilities.
Some folks with autism need 24/7 care. Others, like Chase, are mobile and — under supervision — contribute in meaningful and unique ways through employment, churches and recreational activities.
Chase’s disability does not, and never will, define him. His charm, personality and care for others does.
“I never get angry about having autism,” the 28-year-old says over — social distancing, right? — the phone.
“No, no, Cam. Never.”
Like the rest of us, Chase is concerned about COVID-19 and its spread, and, more to the point, its unknown end.
“I’m just staying home and hope that will stop the spread, Cam,” he said. “I think if we do that, we’ll be OK.”
Chase lives with his parents, Brooke and Rhonda.
“I work two days a week, Cam,” he said, “at Canada Safeway. I’ve been working there for a year and a half.
“I’m in customer service, helping people. I move carts around and take care of customers. I really enjoy it.”
While Chase remains working through COVID-19, he’s missing meeting friends who he swims with.
“But, we have to stay at home and stay safe, Cam,” he said.
Chase is a faithful member of the Church of Jesus Christ Latter-day Saints.
“I really enjoy church, Cam,” he said. “It makes me happy.”
Every April, World Autism Awareness Day is celebrated. Led by the United Nations, the day is used to highlight and embrace people living with autism.
That day is Thursday.
It is of particular significance in these times.
It reminds us, even if we can’t do a few things, we can still go after our dreams.
All we have to is Chase them.EMAIL CAM