Meet Tyler Stipek
Our Stone is in recognition of our son Tyler and all he has been able to accomplish as a young man on the Autism Spectrum.
Tyler was born in 1982, the oldest of 4 children, including twins. They were all born within 5 years so needless to say we had a very busy household! It took several years and many professionals to determine the proper diagnosis of Asperger’s Syndrome. It was a relatively unknown form of autism at that time and he went through a few incomplete and inaccurate diagnoses: hearing loss, ADHD, PDD, and Tourette’s Syndrome. He had speech difficulties, behavior issues, extreme repetitive movements and wet the bed until he was 13. He pushed his 2 yr. old sister down a flight of stairs (she was ok) when he was 4. He broke his other sister’s leg when he pulled one out from under her (she was learning how to walk) and she fell on the other leg. He was 6 and thought it was funny to see her fall.
In public places, I would have strangers come up and either tell me either I was a bad mother because I could not “control” my son or, I had a “bad” boy who needed more discipline/punishment. Children teased and made fun of him and I was constantly lectured by well-meaning (and some cruel) people who assumed he was “normal” because he didn’t look like he had a disability. It was frustrating and often brought me to tears as I did not know what was wrong with him or what to do.
My husband and I took him to the best doctors in the Bay Area, CA, where we lived. Finally, we found a neurologist who put a name to it: Asperger’s. I read everything I could about it and knew this was finally the proper diagnosis. It took 12 years! I finally felt I had something tangible to work with.
We dedicated our lives to find the appropriate classrooms, doctors and other families with mentally-challenged children. We found baseball, soccer and a boy scout troop for kids with disabilities. We were told Tyler may never be able to hold a job or live on his own or drive a car. I hate to admit I believed the doctors and I worried for his future. However, I was determined to give Tyler every exposure and opportunity to learn and explore. He struggled in many classrooms, especially middle school and high school. His freshman year he was suspended 3 days for pushing a teacher and running out the door into the parking lot. I removed him from that school as it was clear this was Tyler’s way of expressing his unhappiness. Every year we struggled to find a classroom that could meet his needs. Tyler would act out when frustrated as he struggled with speech. He was such a challenge.
We moved to San Antonio when Tyler was a sophomore in high school. We found the perfect classroom and educational environment at Clark High School and later Reddix which taught vocational skills and on-the-job training in the community.
Tyler thrived. The one thing I had not considered: he matured as he grew up! With the training he received through Reddix, he got his first summer job at NSISD main office. He filed, delivered mail and made copies of documents. He also worked a summer in Admissions for Northwest Vista College and even had an Express News article written about him and another challenged young man. At 22 he began work at World Savings & Loan where he filed, made copies and did assorted tasks in the office.
Tyler moved into a group home at that time. While difficult to adjust, he eventually adapted to living with other adults and staff. We told him it was his “dorm” experience as all his siblings were heading to college. He learned many living skills. After a couple of years, an opportunity arose for him to apply for an apartment by himself. It was a small complex for folks with disabilities. His provider, RMI, helped him settle in and provided him with an aid. He learned how to arrange his own Via Trans rides and get to and from his part-time job at World.
Fast-forward 10 years. Tyler still lives in his own apartment. RMI is his provider and his aid still helps him shop, plan meals and helps him cook when needed. He eventually worked for USAA and was there for 7 years. Tyler was able to maintain employment in the community for over 16 years!
Tyler’s family is so proud of all he has accomplished! It is a constant roller-coaster ride and never easy, however, when I think about the days when he was little and I was so worried for his future, well, it has given me such hope for a continued bright future for my son. He is who he is, and his family are all on the crazy, wild ride with him all the way!
We are so grateful for all the support from Tyler’s teachers, doctors, therapists and those who worked tirelessly with never-ending patience teaching games, sports and scouting, confidence and a good work ethic. These are part of the building blocks that have helped Tyler to be the best he can be.
Marcia and Bill Stipek