This blog post is by Kathy Angert, the mother of 3 beautiful sons. One of her sons, Evan is 18 years old and on the autism spectrum.
Our fraternal twins were born 2 months early. I tried not to compare the two of them, but I began to notice more and more differences between Evan and his brother. Looking back, there were probably plenty of earlier clues, but what I remember most were the emerging differences in their communication and play skills. When Evan stopped imitating and playing with his twin brother, it was heartbreaking, and we knew that we could no longer ignore the signs. By 18 months, Evan was diagnosed with autism.
We were very fortunate to have a fantastic pediatrican who listened to my concerns. He saw Evan right away and diagnosed him early-even though the odds of having a child with autism at that time were only 1 in 500. Back then, there wasn't as much awareness and we really didn't know where to start. I just knew that I was desperate to start something! After months of trial and error with different types of therapies, and after a lot of research, we began full swing with applied behavioral analysis. We also worked with several speech therapists until we finally found the "right one" for Evan. My husband and I were his advocates every step of the way. We never gave up hope and we never took "no" for an answer. We perserved and so did Evan. What worked for him were hours and hours of ABA, a fantastic speech therapist, and eventually being in a full inclusion school. There, he had great role models and the support of the school's Resource (special education) Team. Over the years the support he received and his accomodations continued. However, they changed as he matured and gradually decreased through his senior year of high school.
Now, here he is at 18 years, ready to embark on the next chapter of his life. Years ago, we never imagined that he would come this far. He never gave up and neither did we. What makes this story special for us is that Evan was chosen to deliever the commencement speech at his high school graduation ceremony! From 18 months to 18 years, he progressed from a non-verbal, non-communicative, and non-social child to a high school graduate. He has risen from having frequent tantrums, a horrible time with transitions, and several sensory issues to delivering his high school graduation speech...in front of a crowd of close to 3,000 people! It took a lot of hard work courage and stamina for him to stand before that huge crowd. Through it all, he spoke eloquently and brought many to tears. His closing remarks were to believe in yourself, do your best every day, and to reach for the stars. I know that he did and I'm sure that you and your children do as well.
Evan's speech conveys hope and encouragement. He is an inspiration to our family and we can't wait to see where his journey takes him next.