Not Autistic – A Photo essay

About a year ago I was busy obsessing about my entry to the Aaron Siskind Foundation Individual Photographer’s Fellowship Grant. Undaunted by the big city “East Coast” air to this thing, I set about selecting 10 photos from literally hundreds I’d taken of my son Harrison in hopes of not only doing something with my …

Read more

The Perfect Season

By Hal Walter

It was one of those awkward encounters. A casual acquaintance threw out a random statement and it made me think.

In this case it was in a grocery store and the statement was essentially that there’s such a gap in this country, everything from homeless people “doing nothing” begging in the streets and living under bridges, all the way up to Bill Gates.

This seemed interesting to me because it is believed that a high percentage of homeless people may be autistic, and it’s also been speculated that Bill Gates may be on the spectrum.

My answer to this was that yes, we sure do have a gap and I’m not sure people at one end are doing more than people at the other. This brought a look of total surprise, and the response that “I think Bill Gates does a lot” and that he does so much philanthropy.

I said Bill Gates probably does appear to do a lot because he is wealthy enough to have people do a lot of things for him. In fact a close friend received her Masters in Library Science from Denver University through a scholarship from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, though I‘m fairly certain the benefactors did not personally sign the check.

But homeless people do a lot, too – they have to scrounge for food, and yes, often alcohol and drugs, find places to sleep, worry about their safety and try to stay warm in the winter.

Read more

Lessons in Guitar and Compassion

By Hal Walter

The guitar has three major cracks in its soundboard and bears the scar of some unknown impact to the rosette that encircles the sound hole. The saddle to which the bridge is attached appears to have been retrofitted from a piece of thin wood paneling, perhaps an attempt to hold the entire thing together, and an analogy for what Longfellow called “the universal language of mankind.”

It was handed to me by Don Pinnella when my son Harrison and I showed up for our first guitar lesson at Custer County School. Don had told me how this instrument had been a “camping guitar,” and had traveled around Colorado in the backs of vehicles and strapped to roof racks. A friend donated it to his music program at the school, and he refurbished it. Don also provided a smaller guitar for Harrison, whose neurodiversities include autism and perfect pitch, and who has taken piano lessons for several years.

Read more


By Hal Walter

Last year when my son Harrison was suspended from school for taking swings at teachers, he asked if I’d ever been suspended. I answered truthfully that I had been, once, then I told him why.

I was serving out the senior year of what I viewed then as my school sentence at Moffat County High in Craig, Colorado. I also worked at the local community newspaper, the Northwest Colorado Daily Press. As part of my duties there I wrote a school news column called “MoCo Highlights.”

As I recall, someone in the school faculty had suggested I write about the new audio-visual equipment in the library. However, when I interviewed the librarians I found an even better story – they had some great new equipment but had received no training on how to use it; thus, it was collecting dust.

Read more

A Bike Ride to Where We Are

By Hal Walter

The phrase “No matter where you go, there you are,” could not be more true than it is for an autistic child. For when one is fully contained in his own mind, he truly cannot be lost.

And thus it was for my son Harrison one recent Saturday.

Since Harrison finally learned to ride a bike last spring, it has opened up a new world for him. And for his parents, too – now we can go for a run and he can ride along, sometimes pedaling for many miles. Lately he has gotten even faster and more independent.

Recently, I watched as he rounded a sweeping curve, maybe a half-mile or so ahead of me, and then vanished.

Read more

Between Autism and Alzheimer’s

By Hal Walter
Of all the holidays, Halloween is the one festivity that seems to turn out the entire Westcliffe community.

If it’s a school day the kids strike out as soon as the bell rings at 4 p.m., swarming in costume, many with parents in tow, to the downtown business district. Some of the adults wear costumes as well.

It amounts to a street party as the kids trick-or-treat the various shops and restaurants in the golden sunlight. For the grown-ups it’s a chance to socialize, and take time to actually talk with people you often only share waves with on the highway.

Read more

Hal Walter – The Burro Boy

Harrison Walter on Ace the burro

Long before I learned my son Harrison has autism, or what the word “hippotherapy” means, I had this idea he should ride our burros. For me this was a way to incorporate fatherhood into my lifestyle.

For three decades I have trained burros for pack-burro racing, including six world championships, as well as for packing and riding. It seemed only natural I would want to share that with my son, and it would also help provide a vehicle to the backcountry.

Read more