I wrote the tweet above in 2012. I never imagined I would hear those words come out of my sons mouth, but it didn’t matter because, as you know, actions speak louder than words and his actions felt to me like he was saying “I love you.”
My youngest son who is autistic is considered non-verbal. He’s going to be five this year and we’ve been communicating with him using PECS cards and basically letting him pull us around the house to whatever it is he wants or needs. He doesn’t point at things but we’ve become so used to knowing what he wants by him leading us to certain areas of the house that pointing has become unnecessary. If he brings us his shoes we know he wants to go outside, if he pulls us to the kitchen cupboard by the dishwasher we know he wants a snack etc.
But he does say words sometimes. In the last six months or so he’s started to sing along with his favorite Yo Gabba Gabba songs or count to ten with me, he can say the alphabet. His articulation and speech is that of a 12-14 month old. Most words we can figure out because we’ll hear him say it along with what is playing on TV or his iPad.
For the longest time I heard stories about people like Carly Fleischmann people with non-verbal autism who learn to write and open up a whole new world for themselves and the people around them. I hoped this for my son.
But with the progress he’s been making with speech there’s this new possibility that he’s going to communicate with us verbally someday. Mimicking what he sees on TV and the iPad are one thing, but conversing, answering a question, using speech to ask for what he wants and needs, we don’t know yet if he’s going to make that transition. And until he does he’ll be considered non-verbal.
All of that aside this post is about hearing the most valuable phrase a person can hear “I love you.”
So every night his bedtime routine is the same and before I close the door I say “goodnight, I love you” in a certain way. Well the day came, unexpected and glorious. He was standing in the living room and I heard him talking to himself saying “goodnight, I love you.” I hurriedly went to him and started saying it with him over and over “goodnight, I love you!” Through my excitement and bliss I managed to catch him on a vine saying the words I never thought I would hear out loud.
It’s very likely that he was mimicking those words the same way he mimics Yo Gabba Gabba, it’s likely that he doesn’t quite understand what exactly those words even mean. But he’s extremely intelligent and I’m certain he knows that mean something very special.
It doesn’t happen every night but sometimes after tucking him into bed I put my ear against the door and I can hear him say “goodnight, I love you.” There’s nothing more precious.