I have six children, four of whom are autistic. Varying types, but autistic. I don’t know why God didn’t think chronic pain and illness weren’t enough of a complication to educating my children and running a household. But, here I am!
(I will finish my adoption story, I promise.)
My two year old (turns three in October) doesn’t speak much. IF she does, it’s scripted words that she has heard from educational videos. Most of the time, she sings. If she sees a ball, she’ll sing about something round. If she sees a photo of herself and her siblings, she’ll point at each one and instead of naming them, point and count and start a counting rhyme.
She wasn’t always this wordless. It used to make me want to cry at first. Everything began normally. But with us now being veterans of special needs, we saw very quickly that things were going south at around the 18 month mark. By two years one month, I’d taken her for a diagnosis. And as it was given, I was told, “I know you knew. I could tell. You really just wanted confirmation from a professional, didn’t you?”
She is a twin. I don’t mind my girl being autistic, I mind that her twin is too young to understand why she doesn’t talk to her. Too young to understand why most of her overtures of affection are pushed away. Too young to understand why her sister has NEVER spoken to her. But even here, there are moments of grace. They may not be able to play together, but my autistic angel now parallel plays near her. Close enough for my neurotypical girl to notice and love it.
One of the big signs was lack of physical affection and hating touch. Also, preferring being outside and being BUSY but busy alone. Either running in the house skeins furniture, or walking in what looks like an aimless manner, outside. No sign that she notices whether you are there or not. I am used to it. It no longer hurts. I won’t lie, it used to make me cry when I was alone. “Not again. Not again. Not another one… Not one with such an affectionate and talkative twin. Not another child I can’t cuddle… Why??”
My angel prefers her big brother. I’m not surprised nor hurt. I wasn’t allowed to carry them when they were born. First because the doctors said the c-section had been too brutal on me. Then because of a tendon in my hand that ended up being operated on. Then major abdominal surgeries… They got used to being in the arms of their older siblings and I’m ok with that because it frees me up to teach the middle children, or to mark school work or do dishes.
Anyway, my angel doesn’t talk much. She might say, “Door” as we leave a room, maybe once a month. She has not said, “Mommy since some time last year.” We celebrated the day she said she randomly held her dad’s hand and said, “Daddy” recently. It was the first and only time calling him. Once, after kissing her twin good night, she said, “Baby!”
She lives a mostly worldless life. I have not yet found out if this is what they call ‘minimally speaking’, or if it falls under ‘non-speaking.’ I thought non-speaking was 100% mute, but some autistic adult I follow said that it’s also when there is a rare word here and there. I’ll do some reading up! My other autistic children do speak so it’s never been on my radar till now.
So anyway, there I am today, she’s itchy and upset because her grass allergy has flared up. I put cream on her face while her brother dressed her after getting her out of her cot. I’m not allowed to lift anything yet. It’s only been two weeks since my surgery. And she suddenly wanted me to carry her! Me!! So I asked her bro to lift her bum up so the weight is on him, and I’d have my arms around her to give the illusion that I was carrying her.
It didn’t end there. She’d done it for a few minutes last week, but today… She purposefully took my hand. MY hand, and went outside with me. Oh what a glorious (and painful for my poor surgery sites) 25 minutes it was. 25 minutes holding my daughter’s hand! I wish I could make you feel the emotion I’m feeling. It’s not that I am sad when she’s doing her own thing. I have lots to do after all. I never think, “Man, I wish she would let me touch her!” But oh, for her to acknowledge she wants Mommy too sometimes is awesome for me. And during this walk, when she had to let go of my hand and her brother thought he could rescue me and take over so I could rest, she would turn around and look for me and grab my hand again. Tiny hand in mine. Pure bliss.
Wordless. She was walking around walking on the edge of things, walking under low hanging tree branches with no concern about getting hurt. She was walking towards the wall and almost into it, only veering away because I pulled her gently and told her we needed to change direction. She sang a few songs. I did all the speaking. I spoke to my girl for 25 minutes. Telling her she was crunching on dead hibiscus flowers and when I pointed out our shadows and raised my foot and said, “Stomp!” She raised her foot too and stomped down.
This was big.
My girl doesn’t usually respond even in silently to what I do. For her to copy me was huge! I know this is all probably meaningless and I’m failing to convey my norm vs how different today was. But I had to note it down. My girl does not copy me. Not anymore. She used to copy peekaboo but stopped a few months ago.
We don’t want our children to necessarily act more neurotypical. We don’t try change them unless it’s to change a harmful behaviour. She’s a sensory seeker and a chewer so I will make sure she has something plastic and safe to chew on. I’m not about ‘curing’ her or crying over what makes her different.
But those moments of connection, I WILL celebrate. I’m not celebrating that it was what a neurotypical child would do, (because we can see it was not typical behaviour anyway) but I’m celebrating the connection. I’m celebrating that I am noticed. She knows I love her and that I will gladly walk aimlessly around a garden with her, going back and forth on the same square. Walking into corners, walking up and down a step. She knows she’s important to me.❤️
(I usually write my name on photos because people used to steal peoples’ pictures but I see so many bloggers who no longer do. And so from now on, I too will leave my photos as they are.)
As we finally walked towards the door, I took some selfies with her. As is the norm when she sees the camera, she did her “Peekaboo” thing and said it. I was in a fair bit of pain and tired so I knelt down. She sat down on me instead of continuing to walk, and we had our form of a cuddle. Yes, looking away from me, but physically touching and not moving off.
It was the perfect ending to a perfect 25 minute walk.