Seeing Beyond the Label

Honestly, my husband and I went into the autism clinic thinking that we were going to rule out autism for our twins.

I went in with our son Aki and my husband went in with our other son Yuri.

For Aki, the doctor wanted to wait to see what the IEP said at the school.  She wanted to know a little bit more about the social skills before she made a determination.

When I got out my husband was still in the office with Yuri.

I already knew.

Autism spectrum disorder, level 2 and mixed expressive receptive language disorder. He was a few days shy of being 3 years old.

At that time, he was crying for hours when he met someone new. He only played “5 little monkeys.” With anything.

Whether it was utensils, toys, food…he would take them in both hands and make them jump all singing Five Little Monkeys.

He would repeat back words but wasn’t saying anything that made sense.

I still remember my husband coming out of the clinic with his eyes slightly red.

That evening, my husband and I had a long conversation. Yuki said what summarized everything we were feeling:

“It makes sense. It clarifies a lot of things and also acknowledges that we were not overreacting. And the diagnosis is a way for us to get them the help to grow up and learn the skills to help them thrive. The diagnosis does not change who they are.”

That night, I held Yuri and cried. I cried not because I was devastated by the diagnosis but because I knew that life was going to be hard for him.

I knew that there are people out in the world that would judge him for who he is.

I knew that there were people out there that would not take the time to get to know him.

I knew there would be people that label him and not get past that label. And that was heartbreaking.

A few weeks later, after the IEP meeting, Akira was also diagnosed. Autism, level 2 and mixed expressive receptive language disorder.

When Aki got upset, he would hit his head, scream on the top of his lungs and hit others. He would not be able to calm himself down.

This could last for 30 minutes to an hour, sometimes more. He would throw things too when he would get upset.

This time, both my husband and I were ready. We knew this was going to happen. And we were okay.

At that moment, I made a vow: I was going to do everything that I could to make sure that they would reach their full potential. I was not going to hide them from the world.

I was going to do my best for people to know them for who they are. Their diagnosis was not who they were. It was part of them. But not everything about them.

I have not cried about the boys since that day that Yuri got diagnosed. Not because it is not hard. It can be.

Some days can be difficult. But because I see what we are doing is working.

They’re such smart, funny and loveable boys. They can identify their letters and numbers, can sound out letters, make their own obstacle course, etc.

Yuri loves to cuddle and get hugs. He loves to read and puzzles. He loves animals. Aki loves giving kisses to me. He loves cars. He loves climbing things. He even taught himself to ride his tricycle. Yuri learned by watching him.

Aki was also the one that started the obstacle course. They are both so, so hard working. And that pushes me and my husband to work hard too.

We do not compare them to any other child, because that is not fair to them. And honestly, that was an agreement that we made even before the boys were born.

As twins, enough people compare them to each other. We didn’t want to do that.

We advocate for them, push for services, express concerns, and don’t back down. That is who we are as parents.  Because the boys are worth it.

It still breaks my heart that there are people who will not want to get to know them because of their label. We have friends who do not really want to talk to us anymore.

We have friends that do not ask us about the boys. We have friends that try to make light of the situation.

We have people who do not understand. And that is okay.

Honestly, those people are not really worth thinking about. If people do not want to get to know them, it is their loss…not ours.

Written by, Chisato 

Chisato is married to her best friend and is raising two beautiful, silly, funny and adorable three-year-old boys together.  She is also a licensed marriage and family therapist and a licensed professional clinical counselor in Southern California.  At the moment, she works 3 jobs (1 full time and 2 part-time) and will be starting graduate school in May!  Her husband also works part-time and is a full-time graduate student. The two boys are the reason Chisato and her husband continue to grow and keep going!

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