All the doctors, all the specialists, said the same thing. Prepare yourself. J is on the autism spectrum and may never speak. He may never grow up.
My throat clogged. I had no words. Yeah, me speechless. Go figure.
Pain for my daughter filled my heart. I cried for all the things I believed she would never experience.
According to the experts, Mama Bear would never hear her cub say “I love you, Mommy.” He would never acknowledge her. Never spontaneously race to her and throw his arms around her. He would never have friends, never socialize with Grandma and PawPaw Bear nor his cousins. He would be forever locked away in his own little world oblivious to the rest of us.
Oh, the tears I cried. My poor baby girl, how was I ever going to help her through this.
Boy, was I wrong! Those doctors were wrong, too.
Yes, J is on the spectrum, but he is growing and maturing by leaps and bounds. He loves hugging Mama Bear— Grandma and PawPaw Bear, too. He tells us “Hi” and “I love you.”
He reaches out to his cousins, taking them by the hand and tugging them along to see his new toys or watch a movie with him.
He’s a mischievous little imp who will sneak up behind you at the swimming pool and push you in. Then jump in after you to show you he can swim. He loves to play tag and his laughter—his amazing, little boy laughter—fills my heart and lifts my spirits. J recognizes animals and will tell you what sounds they make. He even knows the letters of the alphabet and can tell you what they are when you point to them.
Many people think because a child doesn’t talk, he isn’t listening. Or isn’t learning.
J has learned so much from being around others. He’s observant and takes in everything around him.
A perfect example occurred recently. We attended a birthday party for one of J’s cousins. PawPaw Bear wore his black Stetson, as usual. J scooped that cowboy hat off of PawPaw Bear’s head and plopped it down on his own. Popping a hand on his hip, he looked around the group gathered for the party. His clear, sweet, angelic voice rang out. “Seriously,” he said as he made eye contact with Paw- Paw Bear, “YeeHaw!”
We were momentarily stunned into silence before breaking into laughter and rounds of “YeeHaw.” Still not sure where he learned it, but it’s proof positive J was listening to someone somewhere.
Next time you find yourself around a non-verbal child, talk to him or her, please. Don’t talk around them. Don’t talk down to them. They are smarter than you think. I promise, even if they don’t acknowledge you, they are listening.
GLENDA THOMPSON, aka Grandma Bear, resides in Charlotte where she is hard at work on the second novel in a series about Texas Rangers with dark secrets. She is also writing a series on Autism for the Pleasanton Express. These are a combination of research and personal experiences.