As a blogger, I like checking to see how people end up on my site using various search terms on Google (though some have me questioning topics I’ve covered here) but there’s one from today that particularly stands out and breaks my heart:
“autism mommy desperate to hear child speak.”
So, autism mommy, this one’s for you:
Hold on mama. Hope is here. Your precious child may not communicate in the way you expected, but our sons and daughters with autism have plenty to say.
I too spent many years breathlessly waiting for Speech to arrive, a late miracle announcing herself in the middle of the night, asking for forgiveness for her tardiness, filling my home with the sounds of effortless language.
I begged and pleaded and bartered with God to give Andrew a voice.
Until the day I finally realized he already had one.
No, it doesn’t sound like mine or his younger brother’s, or his dad’s or the other children on the playground, but it’s his voice nonetheless, gathering strength and volume with every opportunity I give him to use it.
No, not everyone will understand it, but it gains clarity and confidence each time I provide him with the appropriate means to express it.
No, it does not come easily to him, every word, every phrase, every request requiring his absolute focus and determination, and my unyielding patience.
No, my son will never rise from his bed in the early morning hours and give a detailed description of the amazing dream he just had while begging me to make my famous blueberry muffins for breakfast. But every approximation that escapes from his lips, every word he speaks using the miracle of technology, every finger he points, every gesture he uses, every self-motivated effort he makes at communication feels like a victory for his voice, a voice worth hearing, a voice worthy of being listened to by the world.
I’m not going to tell you it’s easy.
There are times – when my Andrew is in pain, when I’m unable to decipher the patchwork quilt of language he stitches together, when his limited resources have failed him and he crumples in a heartbreaking heap onto the floor – that I would do anything to lift the burden he carries by being non-verbal. It is in these moments that I question my strength, frantically wondering if I’ve unearthed every possibility, every resource on his behalf. It is in these moments I’m nearly swallowed whole by doubt.
And it is in these moments my son needs me the most.
If there’s ever a time for me to listen to his voice – in whatever form that voice manifests itself – it’s when no one else around him dares to try. In the end, I may not always get it right, but Andrew is always speaking to me and the one thing that keeps him from giving up is knowing his mama won’t give up until he’s heard.
I don’t know what the future holds for your child with autism with respect to speech and language. I know for Andrew, the iPad has been a pivotal, life-changing tool which continues to open doors and opportunities for my son. I know I had to come to a place where I understood the importance of functional communication and that what Andrew really needed in order to succeed was to have me just as excited to hear the electronic sound of his communication device as I would be if the words were coming directly from his very mouth.
Because, for all intents and purposes, they are.
They are his words.
It is his voice.
And I hope with time- in your own way and under your own terms – you too will come to a place where you will learn to treasure your child’s language and words, no matter how they happen to look or sound and your desperation will no longer be focused on hearing your child speak, but rather on making sure the world around him is really listening.