4 minute read

Meet the Garner Family

Scott, Kyler and Keaton

BY SCOTT GARNER | PHOTOGRAPHY BY PIXTOREMEMBER2021@GMAIL.COM

I’m the father of two sons with autism. Autism vastly altered our world. Our oldest son, Kyler, was first given a diagnosis of developmental delay (DD) at the age of 3. We got him into therapy early. After additional testing showed that autism was the correct diagnosis for him, I spent a lot of my day going to applied behavioral analysis (ABA) therapy with him. I was still in college working on my bachelor’s degree. In consulting with other parents who had kiddos with autism, I decided to change my major from business to psychology. I was lucky that most of my credits transferred. Kyler made great progress in the programs in which he participated. Almost two years into his treatment, we found out that we were going to have a second baby.

In August of 2005, my youngest son, Keaton, was born. It was a difficult delivery for my wife. Keaton’s APGAR score was low, and he spent 10 days in the neonatal unit. When we got Keaton home, we strived to keep up with Kyler’s treatment plan. At first, Keaton seemed to be progressing as a neurotypical child, but at the age of 18 months, he started showing signs of regressive autism. His once flourishing vocabulary ground to a halt. We immediately contacted a pediatric neuropsychologist to have him assessed. After several appointments and many tests, he was diagnosed with autism. I continued to work on my degree while shuttling the boys from one appointment and therapy session to another.

When he reached school age, Kyler was able to mainstream into general education classes. Keaton, on the other hand, was showing signs of being nonverbal. The coming years were difficult, to say the least. My life consisted of driving to several therapies five days a week. My wife’s mental health suffered from the stress of caring for two special needs kids, and our marriage fell apart. I was given custody of the boys. Keaton did turn a corner and learned to use both sign language and a communication device. I was finally able to graduate in 2008 with my degree in psychology. I founded the Indiana Autism Alliance shortly after that and continue to serve as the organization’s executive director. Support groups were helpful, these groups were the inspiration that layed the foundation of the IAA. I then went on to earn my Ph.D. in psychology from Ball State University.

Kyler graduated from New Haven High School in 2021 and is currently in job training with a local organization. Keaton is now 17 and is a vibrant young man that has made immense headway in his cognitive development. Looking back, our family dealt with so many adversities, but we always kept the faith. I had resolved never to give up on my sons. I knew that they would be beside me if the roles were reversed, and it was me in their shoes. Our life wasn’t easy, but the endeavor was worth the sacrifices we made. My boys show me every day that keeping myself humble and grounded pays continuous dividends. I have gained a huge appreciation of life, love, and family. The future looks limitless for my boys and me.

Scott and his sons reside in Fort Wayne, IN. He is an autism advocate, consultant, and frequent public speaker. He encourages parents of special needs children not to give up in the search for a suitable therapist(s). Sometimes, it takes several tries to find a good fit. Secondly, Scott tells parents not to omit teaching their children basic life skills. Disabled or not, most kids can learn how to prepare food, keep themselves and their living space clean, and often, much more. Contact Scott at indianaautismalliance@gmail.com.