Have you ever considered what your life would be like if you couldn’t speak? I had never pondered this until my twin boys were both diagnosed with Autism. At that time I didn’t know much about the challenges that a person with Autism experiences. I just knew that my kids were not speaking yet. They were 2, so I figured that they were just late talkers. No big deal. I was in denial about the idea that my sons may never speak. It didn’t seem real at first. It took me a long time to accept. As I researched this aspect of Autism, I found that 1 in 68 children will be diagnosed with Autism, and one-third of those children will be nonverbal (NIH). I was floored by this information.
As time passed, I became more and more aware of the challenges that my sons were going to face. I also became aware of how this piece of the Autism puzzle fit into my life as their mother. I was going to need to learn to communicate with my children. I had not heard either one of the boys call me “Mommy” at this point. I wanted to hear it. I used this as my inspiration to get my $**t together as a human and a mom. Raising two verbally challenged kids was going to take a lot of work on my part. It was also going to require my sons a lot of therapy. I was totally committed to making that happen. I was down for any challenge.
Setting up treatment plans became my life. We have ABA, Speech and Occupational therapies. Attending that much therapy is a full-time job for my boys. I spend a lot of my life in my minivan (which I swore I would never drive) driving them around. I didn’t see much of a change, at first. It took months to see progress. One of my sons (baby B) was excelling, but we were seeing very little speech related results in my other son (baby A). I was not deterred. We kept going day after day. I knew it was worth it.
About a year into ABA, I had very different children. Baby B had obtained many words, some of which he was using functionally. Baby A was starting to mumble. It was huge progress! I still wanted to hear my child call me Mommy though. They could make the sounds, but I wanted to be looked at and intentionally referred to as Mommy. I wanted to know that they knew that I was their Mommy. It was frustrating. Again, we just kept on going to therapy. I knew that it would happen eventually, but I was going to need some patience.
Then, it happened. Baby B called me Mommy. It was as clear as day. I was elated. After awhile he began announcing “it’s Mommy” whenever I would enter a room. This felt amazing! Baby A was making so many sounds at this point. He would say “ma ma, ma ma ma”, but it did not seem to be directed at me. He was doing well. He had always been behind his brother, so this didn’t worry me. A couple of months later Baby A looked at me and said Ma-Me. It was broken, but he def meant Mommy and it def rocked my world.
At this point Baby A is considered nonverbal. He makes sounds, but cannot make many words or sentences. We are working on signing to help him communicate his needs. There is still a lot of hope. He will be getting a speaking device to help him express his voice. I am hopeful that he will take to it. The idea behind this is that he will learn to pair words to request his needs. This is supposed to give him motivation to use his own voice to get his needs met since that is easier than using the device. We are excited to give it a try. Baby B is now speaking in short sentences. He has an impediment, but is making huge strides. They may never speak like a neuro-typical child. This is not necessarily the goal. My goal is that they learn as much verbal language skills as possible, in a supportive and nurturing environment. I want them to be happy children. I am providing as much support as possible to make this a reality. I know this will make all the difference in our future.