I want to talk about what it’s like to have a non-verbal toddler. I’ve touched on this before, many times, but I want to talk specifically and solely about this. And lately, I’ve gotten a lot more “likes” on my blog’s FB page by those who are in the autism community (for which I am grateful, because this is when I feel the feedback will really start coming….for better or for worse!) and so I’d like to share my experience with this to see if anyone else out there has some insight, hopeful stories, or just plain perspective.
Unlike many other young autistic children, my son has not yet uttered a single word. Some parents have experiences where their children hit each of their milestones, including speaking, and then watch them drift away at around 18 months of age. This seems to be pretty “typical” when I hear parent’s tell their autistic child’s story. I have never been able to relate to this. Jacqueline Laurita, of Real Housewives of New Jersey, fairly recently went public about her son’s autism. When I first heard this news, I was watching the reunion show (of which I have admitted many times, I have an unhealthy addiction) and she was having a very emotional discussion about this fact. Of course, I cry at just about everything these days, but when the audio recording of her young son’s voice ended a beautiful montage of him in which he uttered the words, “I love you” to her, I began to sob. I felt so incredibly sad for her to have had that moment with him, and then to have watched it slip away into the ‘abyss of language’ that is Autism. How could she have known that this may have been the last time she would hear these words from him for a very long time? (I choose not to say ever again, because I always believe that these kids can find their voice again!) I could not get over how heartbreaking that must have been for her. I still cry when I think about that. Not just for her, but for every single parent who has that faint memory of their child’s sweet voice remaining in their head, and now just looks into their distant eyes each day and no words are exchanged. I’ve heard this story over and over from parents whose kids have “lost language” at some point, but to actually hear that little voice so clearly, and to know that it just suddenly disappeared, really was a heart wrenching thought for me.