Sunday, October 14, 2012

A New Season, A New Voice

Once again the fire-hot, summer sun has plummeted down and re-risen as fall's cool and golden ball. Lush green leaves are transforming into gorgeous, rustic, autumn colors. Toasted chocolate, burnt orange, and cinnamon-scarlet leaves vie for their lives as gentle breezes become howling winds that whisk away even the last stubborn leaf.

The rustling winds of change are also,seemingly,  tugging at Izaiah. I believe his old 'clingy leaf' of being non-verbal will soon sail with the lonely wind too. Here's some signs I've noticed and some cues that (I think) need to be present before a child can be verbal:

Becoming Social.  No, not with everyone. He's autistic so it's normal for him to be unsocial with most people at this young age, but he's social with me. While he's always made his physical needs known to me, this new 'social' is different; this is about relationship. It matters to him to show me his new discoveries and share his experiences. He desires to interact and for me to enjoy his company as much as he enjoys mine.

An Interest in Toys and Surroundings. This goes beyond the lining up and stacking. He's newly curious about how his toys work; he wants to operate them and know how the pieces work together. This is an important, pivotal point because pretend play, which has unlimited learning and communication opportunities, is on the horizon.

He wants to be teachable.  He brings me toys and is able to wait while I show him how to operate them, then, he wants to try. This is a beautiful example of taking turns, sharing, and compassion and the perfect time to begin establishing these foundations.

Fascination wtih cause and effect.  He wants to make music play and cause lights to twinkle. He wants to open the flaps in books and make balls pop or roll through mazes by pressing levers or plungers. He likes an electronic voice that talks to him when he touches a button. He loves that the refrigerator door closes by itself and the light only comes on when the door is ajar. Hefting a jug of orange juice so Mom will pour him some is his favorite 'cause and effect.'  My favorite is that he will give me a high five. At this stage this is equivalent to him saying, "Mommy, I love you!" Is there anything better?!!

His non-verbal communication is more urgent to him.  Increasingly Izaiah is getting frustrated when his signals and actions just don't seem to be enough.  He understands that if he could speak, it would ease tension. There are magical moments where his focus is on my mouth as I form words and he silently imitates them. We have a routine where I slowly say 'OOOOOOpen" and he pokes his finger through my lips. He will then wordlessly imitate my "O" sound and sweetly return the poke!

Hearing more vocal sounds.  Even though no words have officially been said on command, there are the glorious sounds, "buh", "g", "j", "d", "yuh", "eeee", "eh", "dadadada", "duhbye" that happen in the background at our house now. I've plainly heard attempts at yellow, hello, elephant, and even chicken, I think!  The time he spends making sounds has drastically increased and I'm adoring the sound of his voice.

This 'season change' at our house is more beautiful to me than all the fall colors. I love the way Izaiah needs me for a whole new social encounter where I matter too. I have gained full clearance into his world and he's desiring to step into mine.

Just like the leaves that will soon be a memory, the days of Izaiah being a non-verbal child will be too. As flowering buds eventually make their debut in the Spring, Izaiah is showing many signs that speech may be blooming soon.

Encouragement from God's Word: There are so many references to the seasons throughout the Bible. Seasons refer to the weather and also our lives. Sometimes we have overwhelming, burdening, challenges. Other times we are overjoyed with blessings. God's word tells us that no matter which we are going through at the moment, we have to keep giving of ourselves, even when it's hard. Galatians 6:9 says,"And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not."  One of the best things we can do for our kids is be very observant; the way we are when a change in season comes. There are so many opportunities to help kids with special needs advance in their development, whether it is helping them cope with sensory issues, providing smooth transitions and tools for self-stimming, or time for perseverations, help with learning disabilities; whatever the case may be, we can constantly be compassionate, understanding, and working for their good. It will take endless weeks or months or even years before you see the benefits of what you have done. But God's word promises that when we do not grow weary, when we keep at it and do not give up; at the very right time, which only God knows, we will reap a harvest. Sometimes our efforts seem as small as one tiny breeze blowing one dainty leaf on the wind, but over time, an entire forest can be bare and a new season settles in. It happens for our kids too. It seems God's word is warning us not to give up lest we miss out on the harvest! 

Annie Eskeldson writes for parents of young autists. Her oldest autist was non-verbal until after the age of 4.  Her youngest, at almost 3, is still non-verbal ~ yet is 'saying' so much!!! She also has 3 published children's books which can be found at Ashi's Gift Website.


  1. You are an inspiration Annie. I love your heart and the way you see and spread joy! Continue on dear friend, and continue blessing moms!!

  2. Thanks so much Felice! Always appreciate hearing from you :))