Wednesday, May 04, 2005

My Best Teacher

Like most women, I like babies, but I always enjoyed interacting with already verbal kids more. Consequently I couldn´t wait till my kid started talking. It turned out to be, for me, a long, frustrating wait.
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A week after the diagnosis, I finally managed to dry my tears long enough to bid on a few hand-puppets.

He could talk a little by then, but he had developed his own language only we could understand and even then it often sounded bizarre to us. He was also largely echolalic, had his pronouns all confused... pretty much the classical speech pattern of a verbal autistic.

He managed to make his needs known, but I wanted to know him.

I introduced the boy puppet first, while my son was lining up his Bob the Builder toys.

Puppet: "Hi, my name is Thomas. What´s your name?"

Son: No answer. He´s never answered this question before. I wasn´t even sure if he understood.

Puppet: "Do you have a name?"

Son: "No."

Puppet: "Ok, how would you like to be called. Max, Alexander..."

Son: "Alexander." (Not his name, but a favorite from a cartoon.)

We pretended he was called Alexander for a while, and he showed me all of his Bob Toys and told me their names and colors. I could tell he was starting to enjoy this. At some point I introduced a second puppet, a girl.

Boy Puppet: "Hi Anna. So glad you could come! Look, I have a new friend."

Girl Puppet: "Oh, he looks nice. Hi there, what´s your name?" I held my breath.

Son, in a sweet, shy voice: "My name is Sam.*"

I thought I died and went to heaven. He had never answered this question before, ever, despite much coaxing and bribing. He wouldn´t talk to humans, but for some reason he would talk with the puppets, and my beginner´s luck gave me hope to move forward.


"Look C., look at the tulips!"

I´m driving son to the speech therapist. As usual, the traffic is atrocious, and I´m keenly aware of the fact that we´re running 10 min. late. I feel stressed. Given that he points out every tulip he sees to me, I was tempted to overhear him. But then it hit me.

"Look C., look at the tulips!"

My son cannot talk about the abstract. But there´s one thing he see and, therefore, can grasp and that´s nature. It´s all he can think about, therefore it´s all he can talk about. So he talks constanly, about the clouds, and the rain, and the snow, the flowers and the rivers...

Thanks to him, I know now every single place in the vicinty that has tulips and could probably tell you the colors of most of them. And he´s got me so well-trained, that when I spot some he hasn´t seen yet, I rush to point them out him, so that I can hear the delight in his voice.

But the most important thing he taught me, was to be more aware of the nature around me. To take time and smell the roses. It´s something we tend to forget when we get older and I´m grateful he´s here to remind me.

"Who do they belong to?" he asked.

I was tempted to say "City Hall" but I answered.

"To all of us, son. To all of us."


Blogger Laurie said...

What a beautiful post! We have tulips in our gardens (tons of them, in fact!), and I'll have to go home today to memorize every color.

Thank you!

8:00 AM  
Blogger Moreena said...

This is so beautiful. I am so happy you have posted something here. Your relationship with your son is a wondrous thing.

3:19 PM  
Blogger Sarahlynn said...

Oh! What a great post. :)

1:35 AM  
Blogger Randy said...

I've found that I can't ask questions to my semi-verbal son. I have to phrase everything declaratively: "Toby wants . . ." But he is doing better at using words appropriately. Yesterday he came to the phone when I called. I said "Toby," and he said "what."

7:49 AM  
Blogger none said...

Yes, that is familar, being able to talk to him directly was the hardest hurdle we had to overcome.

What kept me going was an experience we had a couple of yeras ago.

We were driving past an airport.
Suddenly he said in a low, clear voice to him self:

"Airport." a word we rarely use, at a time where the only thing he said was "water", repeatedly and in the most mangled way possible...

3:11 PM  

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