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The Big Elephant in the Room

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Recently, my son Stalen and I were getting groceries.

The cashier was super nice and began talking to me as she scanned our stuff. She also tried to strike up a conversation with Stalen.

When he didn’t respond to her she asked me if he was shy.

I quickly told her that he has autism and is non-verbal.

She asked, “will he ever talk”?

I felt myself cringe and I could feel the lady in line behind me leaning in. It wasn’t the question that bothered me, it was the answer.

How do you tell a complete stranger that you don’t know if the little boy smiling in front of her, the little boy that you love more than anything in the entire world, will ever find his words.

There’s a real sadness in not knowing and an even stronger sadness in the possibility that language may never come.

I told the cashier, “I sure hope so but we just don’t know. I believe it will happen”.

Stalen was diagnosed at 21 months on the autism spectrum.

No matter how many times the question is asked, it doesn’t get easier. It is a reminder of the big elephant in the room-my son is non-verbal.

He doesn’t communicate and has no words.

The big elephant follows me everywhere I go.

It is at the grocery store, the bank and the post office. It is at the swimming pool, the playground and the park.

It comes up at baby showers, family dinners, holidays and special occasions.

It weighs heavily on my mind every day and every night when I’m trying to fall asleep. I can’t blame people for being curious and asking.

Before I had my son, I did not know anyone or had never met anyone that was non-verbal. If I had I would have been curious as well.

Stalen is 4 years old and has at best two words (Mom and Dada) and neither are consistent.

He might say Mom 3 times in one day and then never again for a week or a month.

He cannot respond to questions and he does not point. We have one year left to work hard on communication before he is scheduled to begin school.

I have no idea if my son will ever talk.

The experts and professionals do not know either. Trust me, I have asked…over and over and over!

It is as unknown as the weather. We won’t know if he will ever talk, until he talks.

We have had tests performed. It has been confirmed that nothing physical is preventing S from verbally communicating. His brain just isn’t cooperating and it kills me.

But…

I AM SO HOPEFUL.

I believe that my son will talk.

His little voice will be amazing and his curiosity will shine as he asks me questions about everything. “Why Mama?”

We will sing horribly and loudly in the car and he will tell me silly jokes and riddles.

I dream about him finding his voice weekly. It is a beautiful, amazing, dream every time and it enables me to hang on a little longer.

When you love some one so deeply, you never lose faith. You never stop believing.

I can’t wait for my dream to come true and I can share it with all of you.

Until then, we will keep hoping and believing-trying and pushing forward.

HOPE ON.

JOURNEY ON.

Written by, Chrystal Venator

My name is Chrystal Venator. I am a proud wife, ASD Mom, and Step-Mom. In January 2017, at 21 months my son was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder. He is four years old and non-verbal. Since his diagnosis, I have become a full time stay at home Mom. I am 1000% focused on raising autism awareness and helping my son live a full and fun life. Follow our journey on Facebook at Stalen’s Way.

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Kate Swenson

Kate Swenson lives in Minnesota with her husband Jamie, and four children, Cooper, Sawyer, Harbor and Wynnie. Kate launched Finding Cooper's Voice from her couch while her now 11-year-old son Cooper was being diagnosed with autism. Back then it was a place to write. Today it is a living, thriving community of people who want to not only advocate for autism, but also make the world a better place for individuals with disabilities and their families. Her first book, Forever Boy, will be released, April 5, 2022.

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