“I love talking about nothing. It is the only thing I know anything about.” Oscar Wilde.
It was impossible to get a conversation going, everybody was talking too much. Yogi Berra
“Communication is the imparting or interchange of thoughts, opinions, or information by speech, writing, or signs” according to the dictionary. To me, communication is about sharing whether it be an experience or a conversation. Sharing creates a bond and memories. It teaches you how to reach higher levels of interaction.
With autism, communication is impaired. It’s different. The word “autism” has its origin in the Greek word “autos,” which means “self.” Children with autism are described as self-absorbed, seeming to exist in a private world where they are unable to successfully communicate and interact with others. This world my son disappears into seems to be one to which he is going less frequently, at least lately.
He has got a lot of communication growth going on right now in the area of verbal language. In other words, my son has started to talk – a lot. Not just self-talk either. He seems to be interacting more and more. He is using language to express himself. So we are reaching a new level. We have not achieved “normality” in communicating by any means, but to me, he is taking pretty large strides forward. It is a beautiful thing to watch. Here are some little nuggets:
“Mommy, I wanna use the potty.”
“Mommy, let’s read “The Very Sleepy Sloth”.
“Where are we going? We are going to Toys-R-Us!” (Except – not)
“I love you, Mommy.” (The best words ever!)
These sentences come out smoothly and confidently, in contrast to the frustration he shows when he gets stuck in language. He will still say things like “What is that?” to point something out to me but the majority of times, he already knows the answer. It would be great if he was saying, “Look at that mom! It’s a fan.” or, less complicated, “Look at the fan!”
When he is having trouble, he will say, “You know what that -is it?” It comes with slight hesitation realizing he’s lost in how he wants to end the sentence. He does this quickly, many times throughout the day. In a way, it’s like you can hear him come to a dead end with the sentence but quickly try turning it around to take a different route.
He wants me to join him in whatever object has captured his fascination. He is trying to share the moment with me. He cannot express it. So he draws my attention with what, instead of “Look Mommy! Look at the (object)!”
I know I am beyond lucky that he tells me he loves me. Sometimes, he switches it up and asks me, “Do you love Mommy?” and who could complaint about those words? I’m grateful for them.
But if there were two words that I wished he would say, it would be “Look Mommy!” Those two words convey that his interest is engaged in something that he wants to share with me. They are simple. And it kills me to see the little tiny ones, barely 2 years old, shouting them out at playgrounds or in stores. Those words instantly connect you and your child. They are words that I see NT parents take for granted all the time. I wish they knew how significant those words are.
Yes, the little guy has not yet spontaneously said, “Look Mommy!” Two words and eye contact that I would jump over the moon to receive. I have modeled it for him. I have had him repeat it after I say it. But he is not quite there yet.
In part, I believe this is more than a language issue. I think it is a processing issue that may involve some visual perception problems. “Look” is obviously a visual term. I don’t know how much depth perception he has.
A carnival has come to our mall. All the rides, brightly colored equipment and stands are getting setting up. We were driving straight toward it – it was directly in front of us and visible through the front windshield of the car. I pointed at it and I said excitedly to him, “Look!! Look!! There’s the carnival!” He is aware of what a carnival is. I saw him in the rear-view mirror. He did not follow the point. He was looking out the window in another direction out of the corner of his eye.
He heard me. He tilted his head and looked out of the corner of his eye at an angle, as he often does, in the wrong direction. He said, “Wanna go to the carnival,” very softly but I knew he had not seen it. I asked him if he saw where it was. He could not point and answer me.
The good part is that he is listening. He processes what I tell him and he responds. He cannot always follow my point. But he is now starting to point to show me something as well. In the last couple of weeks, he has begun to point to draw my attention somewhere. This – to me – is magical and just a step away from saying those two magical words. I smile inside when he does this.
He points up through a window at trees. He asks me, “Who is that?” Then, instead of waiting for an answer, he smiles a big smile and says, “You know who it is – Steve Tree!” a cartoon tree character from TV.
Yesterday, he spent a lot of time singing. He sings a song about ice cream, wants to “la-la” to the tune of the Thomas train videos, Itsy Bitsy Spider, Take Me Out to the Ballgame, snippets of the Beach Boys and John Mayer. I’ve read that most children begin to sing by the time they are 2. He did not. But as far as I’m concerned, better late than never. It is a joy to hear his little voice.
He still engages in a lot of echolalia, (repeating of phrases from TV, toys, books and movies). But he’s talking to me to get me to share an experience, observe an object or get a basic need fulfilled. He’s making eye contact. He’s pointing. He is singing and dancing. As he does so, I’m learning more and more about him every day in a new way. A way that some parents get to take for granted. I treasure these moments. And I can honestly saying that he has come a long way. Keep talking baby! Mommy is very proud.