Sometimes Izaiah's refusal to engage leaves me broken-hearted, pleading with God to "pulease let Izaiah speak!" In a snap, this strong mom can melt into a slumped over pile of desperate sobs and shaking shoulders.
Recently, while feeling defeated, my mind mercifully switched gears. Instead of searching the signs ahead, God turned my focus to the scenery in the rear view mirror. Wow! Things really are larger than they appear when looking back. Hopefully my observations will help you realize your child's progress too.
For instance, Izaiah's vocab has grown from silence to 'dada' and 'go-go.' Occasionally I hear 'nah nah,' and 'up' and 'deedle deedle deedle dee.' There are attempts at 'apple' and (unless I'm imagining things!) I swear I've heard 'chicken,' 'Dubai' and 'do whaaaaat?' To see Izaiah saying "DaDa" It's not just about words, but about sounds too.
I need to be more grateful for his ability to communicate without saying a word. He gets all his needs met by motions, leading me by the hand, or bringing me objects. I've seen him point when desperate, use a couple of words via sign language and recently he can shake his head "no." His older sister did NONE of these things so this IS a big "on-my-knees-in-thanks" deal.
Looking back it was easier to see how jumping, running, spinning, crashing, and climbing (obsessively) the last couple of years has strengthened his once weak body. His love of music, dance, and movement has helped his balance and coordination and has even given him an ounce of gracefulness. He's even been mouthing a word from a Wiggles song and imitating their dance moves!
He has become quite the socialite with Mommy and Daddy, and, will even play with Ashi if it benefits him in some way. He makes better eye contact, understands expressive language, seeks our attention, and wants to play together. He's even expanding his list of play items.
He can throw a ball. And he can also catch!
We have tackled many oral/swallowing issues. Izaiah ate baby-food until after age 2, had terrible gagging/choking problems, and was finicky about what foods he ate. At age 3 we've worked through these and while he has his picky faves, he's open to trying about anything. The black and white photo above is from Chuck E. Cheese!
Other random activities include transitioning smoothly most of the time, functioning on his iPad, drawing; he lets me read books to him and is recognizing words (not a surprise as big sister is hyperlexic too.) He has very few meltdowns and is able to handle getting dressed in clothes he likes. He has taken to drumming which means he is finding a stim that helps comfort him during times of anxiety.
When reflecting on so much progress, my eyes flooded with tears. I felt guilty for being so oblivious to ground already covered. I also realized that Izaiah and I are two different people.
For me, communication is most important and I want, no, ache so much it hurts, to hear him say, "Mommy." But, for him, his proprioceptive and vestibular 'senses-tank' must be full and this is most important, no, it is survival for him. He needs the right amount of pressure applied to his body, clothes that feel right, food he can swallow, room to run, crash, jump and spin. Providing these things say "I love you, Izaiah!" One day, when he is filled up enough, it will spill over into words and he'll say, "I love you too, Mommy."
Be encouraged by being grateful. Instead of thinking where we're not, let's think about where we are and remember from where we've come. Smile about the things that supposedly could never be, but now are; the things that never should've been, but are anyway. I love the verse below. Our son, Izaiah, was named for the prophet Isaiah. Because we intentionally teach our children the Bible, our goal is for our children to teach others about Christ. I have faith that that is exactly what this non-verbal little boy will do one day.
A great way to teach how to catch is to use bubbles! If your autist is non-social with his siblings, have the siblings blow the bubbles. It's a fabulous way for them to interact. After mastering bubbles, you can also use balloons ( for older children who do not put things in their mouths of course), then balls.
Have trouble with a child throwing things in your house? Here's how we solved it.
Annie Eskeldson writes for parents of young autists and has 2 of her own! You can find out more about her 3 published children's books about autism at Ashi's Gift Website.