My son is 11. He’s average height, loves YouTube and particular about what he likes to wear. He eats me out of house and home and would rather walk away from me than with me when out in public. In so many ways he’s an average 11-year-old boy, yet in one way particular he’s very different:
My son can’t talk.
He’s never been able to, though over the years his communication skills have increased a lot, as has his understanding. People think those who can’t talk somehow can’t understand and while my son does have learning difficulties, he understands much more than people think.
He also has plenty to say!
Every day I talk to my son just as I would his sister. He has words and phrases he loves to hear (don’t we all?) and he loves to get me to say certain things every day because that makes him smile and become excited. So, I say them...as often as he wants.
He loves to tell me what day of the week it is. He uses a board with the months and the days on and every morning points to the right day. He then points to his fingers as he loves to know what he is doing that day. I could use visuals, and often do, but he loves to hear me talk and he looks at me and smiles and flaps as he hears that, as always, his day will end with a bath, some supper and a story.
He will bring me things: his coat, shoes, cup, his iPad with where he has gone on google street map or his swimming trunks.
He doesn’t need words to show me what he wants and needs.
We use a 100 square number board with little numbers that go on top and we play games of finding the numbers. He’s amazing at knowing what comes next and will often pick up a number and ask me to I tell him what number it is and he laughs and smiles as if saying your got it right mum!’. For years he carried around a magazine that had been posted out from a food delivery company and he would show me foods pointing at his mouth or my mouth or his sisters to say he wanted that person to eat the food he was pointing to. He loved us playing along and pretending to eat fish and chips, or sausages and he would flap excitedly if I actually made what he requested for his next meal.
He shows me photographs on his iPad and we talk together about memories. He signs ‘yes’ and ‘no’ to questions and points to different parts of the photo to hear me talk about it.
People think our conversations are one sided, but they are definitely not.
It’s true he can’t make up stories, tell me how he’s feeling or talk about his favourite book. I would still dearly love to hear his voice, to hear him say he loves me, to have him sing and tell jokes. But I also treasure the conversations we have daily because they are precious and intimate and beautiful.
Having a nonverbal child can be heart-breaking but it doesn’t mean you can’t have conversations together.
It just means those conversations involve so much more than words.