Autism doesn't slow these identical twins down, especially when it comes to running.
Alex and Jamie, 28, of Great Neck, New York, love nothing more than running marathons.
After they realized their passion at 15 years old, their parents Robyn and Allen Schneider have always encouraged the hobby.
Alex grew to be a competitive runner, training six days a week and completing half-marathons at an average of an hour and 16 minutes – an incredibly impressive time even for able-bodied competitive runners.
“It was just beyond words,” their mom Robyn told InsideEdition.com. “We were so excited, so thrilled for him, and he has no idea how great he is.”
For Jamie, the pastime is more recreational. He trains three days a week and prefers leisurely runs with his parents.
“He’s much more social,” his mom said. “He likes to stop and take a break, take a water stop, walk a little. He listens to an iPod when he’s running and he likes running behind girls with ponytails. I think [he likes] the 'swish, swish' motion of the ponytail.”
But being a parent to the identical twins hasn't always been so easy, Robyn said.
“Growing up, one was a little bit more difficult than the other,” Robyn explained. “It was kind of like a chain reaction and they had a lot of behaviors and it was really hard to communicate because neither of them are verbal.”
She said they were diagnosed at 21 months, and they continue to need help with day-to-day tasks, like remembering to eat, putting on a jacket in cold weather and crossing the street.
“Autism is a lifelong disability,” she said. “They’re still not communicative, so it’s even difficult today.”
While Alex and Jamie grew up learning to swim, doing karate and riding horseback, they have always seemed ambivalent to the hobbies. But everything changed when they started running.
“[They were] smiling a lot, jumping up and down, [they] just seemed really at peace and just a different kind of happiness,” Robyn explained. “They seem to be eager to go when we tell them we’re going running. We just saw something different in them – something light up. It was really wonderful for us because we had never seen that before.”
Since then, becoming strong runners has been a family effort.
Robyn and her husband are in charge of their diets, she explained, and she tries to make sure her sons are eating healthy to stay in shape.
In terms of training, Robyn explained her sons have a different threshold for pain and can’t express themselves when they’re injured.
“Alex was running with his cross-country team in high school with his coach and we didn’t realize it but he had a stress fracture and the only way we knew that was he was running down a hill and he was limping,” she recalled. “It’s a lot of observation for us and just a lot of carefully building up the mileage. And we make sure all their workouts are followed by recovery runs.”
Neither Jamie nor Alex can run alone. Some days they run with a coach, and other days, their parents will run or bike alongside them.
Alex is now preparing to run in the New York City Marathon accompanied by a coach, and Jamie is looking forward to cheering his brother on.
“It’s very heartwarming and there aren’t many things that we can really rejoice about, having two very severe kids with autism,” Robyn explained. “So the whole running experience gives us that opportunity to rejoice and celebrate."