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No slowing Jonathan down in Feaster Five

Eagle-Tribune - 11/28/2021

Nov. 28—Haverhill resident Jonathan Dion was there near the front of the pack before the start of Thursday's 34th running of the Feaster Five Road Race.

He is 18. He is in the autism spectrum. He attends a special school for learning disabilities, Riverview School in Sandwich, Mass.

But this was not a case of "special treatment."

Jonathan's spot near the front with the elite runners was more than deserved as the final result of the Feaster Five 5K exhibited.

Dion finished 29th overall at 19:45.

His entire family, including dad, Robert, mom, Carolyn, and brother Joshua (25), Jacob (23) and Samantha (15), was there the big day, which is really every day Jonathan's running and usually smiling.

Technically, Jonathan has been diagnosed with Landau Kleffner syndrome (LKS), a rare childhood disorder characterized by the loss of language comprehension (auditory verbal agnosia) and verbal expression (aphasia) in association with severely abnormal electroencephalographic (EEG) findings during sleep and clinical seizures in most patients.

The Dions found a school that dealt with students with Jonathan's disability.

While there, one of the school doctors recommended Jonathan play sports like basketball or cross country, due to his desire to be active.

"He's a pretty good basketball player, but he took to cross country running," said his dad, Robert. "He loved it from the start. and he's really, really fast.

"All of my kids are athletes," said Robert, whose daughter just competed for the state semifinalist Haverhill High volleyball team. "We always have gone to all of their games. So when he's running cross country, we go watch him."

Competing is part of the allure, too. His two brothers were very good youth and high school athletes in multiple sports. His sister, too.

Jonathan ended up being the fastest runner on the cross country team this season at Riverview, which includes another meet next week.

"I love running," said Jonathan. "It's good for my head when I'm stressed. It calms me down. and I love running against people that I've never raced against. Competition means everything to me."

His dad coached all of his kids in Little League.

"My dad is my biggest fan," said Jonathan. "He always comes down to see me run and cheer me on. It motivates to do well. He's been there since Day 1. My whole family has."

All of the Dion clan was there on Thursday morning at the starting line and then, at the finish line for his first-ever Feaster Five.

"I did pretty good, but I didn't know the course too well," said Jonathan. "I will run it next year and definitely to better. That's my plan."

Jonathan will remain at the Riverview School until the age of 21. In the end, the ultimate goal is gaining independence, which is part of the school's goals, too.

As for his goals in running, it will be to continue to get better.

He did admit, part of his passion for the sport is has some family ties.

"My brothers were good athletes," he said. "But I'm better at running than they are. I like that part."

You can email Bill Burt at


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