My Sons have Autism

Those 4 words are just words, yet hold so much meaning to me.

In February of 2018, my son who was 19 months old at the time, was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder, Mixed Receptive-Expressive Language Disorder and Global Development Delay.

And 6 months later my older son, 9 years old at the time, was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder, Generalized Anxiety Disorder and Social Pragmatic Language Disorder.

My now 10 year old was diagnosed with ADHD-combined type in 2014. Nobody explained to me then I’d be fighting the battle of Autism on opposite ends.

My oldest son being so high functioning that countless school officials question his very thorough diagnosis from the extremely qualified doctors at Children’s Hospital DDBP.

While my younger son had multiple red flags at his 18 month check-up including forgetting words he used to know, excessive crying, the need for a structured routine even at infancy and eliminating food groups entirely among other things.

Needless to say my hands are full with 3 part-time jobs, a fiancé who works his butt off so I can be home with our kids during the day and a dog.

Rewind to the night we got the results of my younger sons diagnosis. I made myself a strong drink and cried. I sat on the back porch and I cried until I couldn’t cry anymore.

I wasn’t grieving because he has autism, I was grieving for the life I had envisioned for him. So many questions.

Will he go to school like everyone else?

Will he ever talk?

Will we ever get him out of diapers?

Will he go to prom?

Will he have friends or be invited to sleepovers?

Will he ever leave our home or go to college?

Or get married and have children…I was grieving for all the question marks this diagnosis left me with.

My youngest brother has autism and was nonverbal for a long time, but that is my only experience with autism.

And as they say, “If you know one person with autism, then you know one person with autism.”

I felt like I was drowning in my sorrow. Then one day it hit me.

I was bartending (1 of my 3 jobs) and I hadn’t really told the world my son has autism.

It’s hard at first to get those words out. To say it plainly and matter of fact.

One of my regulars was asking about my kids and I’m not sure why I chose this moment to test out the words but I said, “They’re doing great, Alaric was diagnosed with autism a couple weeks ago and we’re navigating that right now.”

His response was, “I’m sorry to hear that. That has to be hard.”

Now I know he meant well and there is no guide as to how to respond to someone who tells you that their child was diagnosed with autism. I get that. BUT why are you sorry?

My son has a neurological disorder that makes life harder for him but not impossible.

He thinks differently, processes differently but he’s not sick. He’s a big, healthy boy.

He’s in the 87th percentile on his growth charts, even though he can’t tolerate eating vegetables and fruits. (It’s more than being a picky eater, I’ve heard that about 1000 times too).

And here we are 14 months after his diagnosis and I’m filling out preschool paperwork and I can check the box that says “He can say more words than I can count.”

He called me ‘mama’ for the first time last week. It doesn’t mean he doesn’t have autism.

It means we work really hard.

My fiancé works so hard so that I am able to take my son to ABA therapy, occupational therapy and speech therapy. And my boys are the strongest people I know adapting to a world that doesn’t feel right to them.

So don’t be sorry for us. There are others going through much, much worse. This is life and you adapt and make the best of it.

My sons have autism. But that is not something I’m sorry for.

They are healthy, loved, happy, thriving and supported by all of our family (which isn’t always the case for some).

My sons have taught me patience, kindness, acceptance and above all unconditional love.

And without autism, my beautiful sons wouldn’t be who they are. And they are perfect just the way they are.

Written by, Stephanie Yunger

Hello my name is Stephanie Yunger. I live in Ohio with my 2 boys, Noah whose 10 and Alaric whose almost 3 years old, my fiancé Scott (husband 10-17-20) and our dog, George. I work 3 part-time jobs…bartending, hair stylist (running my own business booth rental) and at a concession stand my parents own for a youth organization.

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Finding Cooper's Voice is a safe, humorous, caring and honest place where you can celebrate the unique challenges of parenting a special needs child. Because you're never alone in the struggles you face. And once you find your people, your allies, your village....all the challenges and struggles will seem just a little bit easier. Welcome to my page!

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