I had an odd dream last night. I often about dream about my children, and when they were little I had a recurring dream in which Boo Bear could speak. This dreams always delighted me at the time, made me so happy, until I woke up feeling bitter sweet. I have not had such dreams in years, until last night. In the dream, Boo Bear was speaking in clear, concise sentences. We chatted about a number of things, that were not that important, but still filled me with joy. In this dream I was puzzled as I could not see his face. I am used to him not making eye contact, but not being able to see his face was weird. In the end he turned to me and I realized that the speaker was not Boo Bear at all! It was a sturdy looking child with blond curly hair and no glasses. Anyone who knows Boo knows that this just does not fit. Then, I woke up. Unlike the dreams I had when he was little, this dream was not bitter sweet. I am no longer torn to pieces over the fact that my son does not use his lips to communicate. He uses so much more. He can sign, he can gesture, he can use his Ipad for any number of things. He can roll his eyes at his parents and give his sister a magnificent side eye. Boo can express his needs and opinions just fine, without saying a word.
When discussing kiddos who do not speak people often use the terms non verbal or pre verbal. Pre verbal sounds a bit more hopeful, as if the skill just has not manifested yet. It can be a good description for a toddler. Pre verbal is not such a good description for a 17 year old male. Non verbal, as a description, does not really work either. The Ipad says quite a lot for Boo. The other morning he woke up with pasta on his mind. His first request of the day was to go to Noodles and Company and have pasta prima vera. Noodles is not open at eight in the morning, so I told him we would just have to wait until lunch time. He continued his requests throughout the morning until we finally got in the car and drove to the restaurant of his choice. He walked in the door and without a pause set his iPad on the counter and requested a bowl of pasta prima vera. This does not strike me as non verbal. He knew exactly what he wanted and how to get it. When the dish of noodles arrived he ate it with great relish.
So, how do I describe my son? If I just say he is autistic people immediately want to know if he is high or low functioning. If I say he is non verbal people act like this is a tragedy. But, Boo is not a tragic figure. He laughs often and loudly. He loves to go for walks, to the pool, to Lynx games and out to dinner. He spins in his swing and hoots with glee. Obviously, he is not wasting any time feeling sorry for himself. So, neither do I. I don’t think he wants to be described as high function or low function or pre verbal or non verbal any more than I do. If you want to get his attention, I would suggest calling him by his name. If you sweeten the deal with a promise to a trip to Dairy Queen, you will probably get a smile. Enough said.