Meet Tony Linberg (Username: galdrin): IT guy, geocacher, and proud father. Meet Tony’s son: 13-year-old treasure hunter, adventurer, and explorer. They’re your everyday father-son geocaching duo. But dig a little deeper and like most geocachers you’ll uncover something remarkable about their relationship and why they geocache.
In 2006, Tony’s three-year-old son was diagnosed with severe autism, meaning that he is unable to use spoken language. He also suffers from asthma, light epilepsy, and hyperactivity. This diagnosis would change the Linberg family’s life. They moved away from their friends and family in the city to a quiet house in the countryside, an environment more suitable to their son’s needs. A year after the move, the Linberg’s daughter came into the world. She was also diagnosed with autism.
Then, in 2008, Tony happened across an article about geocaching. After discovering that his son enjoyed being driven in a car, Tony had started the routine of taking long car rides with his son. They would just drive and drive for hours at a time. Tony says, “The article gave me an idea to create a goal for our next evening in the car so that the trip would have some meaning for me also and not just for my son. And this is where our life takes a new direction for me, my son, and in the end all our family. If the [autism diagnosis] started a downward spiral then the discovery of geocaching started an upward spiral that just keeps on going.”
On that first geocaching experience, Tony and his son both fell in love with geocaching – but in very different ways. Tony loved the way that finding the treasure at the end of the trail made him feel: excitement building, pulse racing, confidence growing. Tony says his son fell in love not with the find itself, but rather with the adventure of getting there: “My son has never cared about the box at the end of the trail, he only cares about the trail and what he got the day we found geocaching is the activity needed to feel good.”
Geocaching has not only changed Tony and his son’s life, but also the way in which the entire family lives, loves, and exists. Through geocaching, Tony says, “I get small glimpses of the boy behind the handicap, small moments when his hyperactivity lets go of him and he can sit down and enjoy the situation, and short moments when he grabs my arm and laughs when we have successfully logged a geocache and are walking back to the car. He almost never laughs normally, but when we are geocaching I am blessed with the sound of his laugh… Geocaching is a water balloon full of goodness that hit me, but it splashed everyone in our family.”
Tony and his son are now going on 1400 finds and currently own two geocache hides. Their geocaching adventures inspired a new level of physical activity for both Tony and his son. Tony’s son started sleeping more than four hours a night and improved his balance. Perhaps most importantly, geocaching showed the Linbergs that their children’s autism diagnoses were not the final chapter. At first, the Linbergs thought that autism spectrum disorder meant that their family would never get to explore the world together. Because of his disorder, Tony’s son cannot be left alone for even short periods of time. But through geocaching, they learned that they can still lead lives full of exploration and adventure and – like all parents hope to do – they can challenge their children to try new things and discover interesting places. Tony has started calling his son his “shadow cacher” because they get to have adventures together all the time.
Today, Tony’s son is beginning to learn to communicate using an iPad. For the most part, the language is very basic (e.g. “I’m hungry” or “I need to go to the toilet”). However, there is one phrase that Tony says his son uses more than any others: “I want to go geocaching.”
For Tony and his son, geocaching is not about that the numbers. 1400 finds means 1400 adventures, 1400 memories, and 1400 reasons why any parent and child – of any ability – can find a common bond through geocaching.
You can follow shadowcacher’s adventures on Tony’s blog. If you have a story you would like to be considered for the next installment of “Geocachers Care,” please email firstname.lastname@example.org.