I wondered what he was thinking.
Eleven years old and low verbal, he lives very much in his own world. His motivations, his reactions, his dreams and his fears are but silent voices.
How I've always wished that I could hear those voices. What mother wouldn't?
I remember the first desperate days after his diagnosis. Angry and convinced that the man who diagnosed our then 2-year-old son didn't know what he was doing, my husband and I purchased a library of language DVDs. Mercilessly, I strapped our son in his high chair, and I willed him to talk.
"Glasses," said the voice on the DVD.
I paused it.
"Say, 'Glasses'," I demanded of him.
Our son said nothing as my chest filled with emotion. He was eating his morning bacon. Usually, this was the perfect time to get his attention; but, he was tuning me out.
I took the bacon away.
"Glasses," I said once more. "Say, 'Glasses,' "
Again, he said nothing.
Damn him! Why couldn't he understand how important this was! We couldn't let that psychologist win! We simply must prove him wrong!
"Glasses!" I demanded, tearing my glasses off of my own face as tears spilled from my eyes. "Look! Glasses! Say, 'Glasses'!"
"Glasses!" I choked desperately through my sobs.
"Asses," he said.
I collapsed into a puddle of tears, relieved for winning the battle and much too frightened to admit that we actually might be entering a war.
A decade after that morning in my home, I was watching our son, sitting in nearly the same spot where his high chair stood many years ago.
He had changed.
His autism had changed.
The autism community had changed.
Today we live in a culture where there is autism awareness and celebration. Awe-tism. I wondered how awesome our sons felt in their autism? I wondered, if given the chance, would our older son want to speak, or did he prefer life just the way is was?
Is he a child trapped in his own body, or is he a child who happened to communicate differently?
Somewhere around his seventh birthday, I stopped pushing my wishes on him. I felt that my wishes might be too demanding. So, I stopped demanding, and I embraced the child that stood before me.
If he truly did not ever call me by name, say that he loved me or learn to express himself beyond his most basic needs then so be it. His skill level was a part of him.
And, I love him.
That's how I felt, anyway. As I watched him sitting so quietly on the floor with his vacuum this evening, I wondered what he wanted? Assisted technology with him has not been an easy road. It isn't as though he has embraced it, ready for an outlet through which he can express his thoughts. Often, he pushed it away.
Our most successful venture to date are "yes" and "no" picture symbols offered for his use in response to our questions.
I watched him sitting on the floor for a little more before I decided to grab those cards, and when I approached him, he saw them and said, "All done."
"We will be all done if you cooperate and answer three questions for me." I told him.
I usually start with two obvious questions to be sure that he is engaged in the conversation. Once I was convinced that he was, I asked him this:
"Do you wish that you could talk with words?"
He hesitated and looked me squarely in the eyes. Then, his eyes dropped to his lap as he thought for a few seconds before he raised his right index finger to point to the card that said, "Yes."
My heart dropped. Yes, yes, of course he must.
"You said, 'Yes'." I validated for him. "I understand that. Thank you for telling me."
More than ever, I was left with the realization that, no matter how many advances one may think the autism community has made, I'm still living with a low verbal child who I must prepare to live in a highly verbal world.
I wish there was an easy way to do that.
"I love you buddy," I said to him; and I left him in peace to play with his vacuum. "Your parents will always be here for you."
This entry was written in response to a word prompt issued by The Group Blogging Experience 2 (GBE2).